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Cells and Model Organisms

Nodulation: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Plants are incredibly organisms. Not only do they provide atmospheric oxygen, but, in the case of legumes, they can transform atmospheric nitrogen gas to ammonia, which can then be consumed by humans. How does this happen, you ask? It’s all thanks to bacteria and the process of nodulation. Deep Breaths Nitrogen is an incredibly important…

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What the HEK? A Beginner’s Guide to HEK293 Cells 

If you’re at all familiar with cell culture, you’ve probably heard of HEK293 cells. HEK293 are one of the most commonly used cell lines in laboratories across the globe. But what are they? Why should you use them? And what does the ‘293’ mean? Are HEK293T the same thing? Read on for answers to these…

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Successful Start: Tips for Establishing Organoids

Organoids are a developing star of research. They can be grown to represent the majority of mammalian organs and have a wide range of possible applications. More realistic than simple monolayer cell culture, they offer an in-between step that reduces the need for animal models and simplifies (although doesn’t completely remove) ethics paperwork. Once you’ve…

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How to Preserve Microorganisms: the long (and short) game

Given the importance of microorganisms as cell factories in biotechnological applications and as model organisms for the study of various biological processes, the preservation of microorganisms plays a key role in ensuring reproducible results and continuity in research. Maintaining a library of microbial stocks also enables microorganisms to be easily stored and retrieved, as compared…

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Staying Alive: Tips for Air-Liquid Interface Cultures

What Is Air-Liquid Interface Culture? Long gone are the days where scientists had to rely on 2D cultures of immortalized cell lines to learn principles of human biology. Today, we have a variety of cell culture systems that come closer than ever before to mimicking the structure and function of our body’s organs. One example…

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C. elegans: The Elegant Model System

In research, choosing a model system is like choosing a partner – you want it to be a perfect fit. If you are attempting to solve problems such as finding unknown proteins in known processes, investigating unknown functions of known proteins or correlating cell biology to a function for which you want a relatively simple…

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Five Factors Affecting Your Mouse Behavioral Studies 

Let’s face it: the nature of behavior itself is inherently variable, whether it’s the heterogeneous socializing behavior of humans at parties, the complex aggressive behavior of rodents when they perceive a threat, or the intricate courtship behavior of insects during their mating dances. Because of this variability, the struggles associated with trying to (successfully) reproduce…

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A Bug Ate My Experiment, Part 2

In the first article of this series, I introduced microscopic parasites that infect greenhouse plants.  Initially, my goal for Part 2 was to list all the main types of infestations, but I quickly realized to do so would result in a textbook. Thus, this article will be about the most familiar and easy to identify…

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Isolating Monocytes from Whole Blood: A Step-by-Step Guide

So, you’ve done a few experiments and had fun with THP-1 cells, but now it’s time to translate those results to primary human monocytes. Isolating monocytes requires blood. Lots and lots of blood, depending on your downstream assay of choice. The yield can vary wildly by donor (if they had a cold at the time…

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Culturing the Unculturable: Working with Difficult Bacteria

As the vast majority of bacteria cannot be readily cultured in the laboratory [1], culture-dependent methods to investigate bacteria grossly underestimate the diversity of bacterial communities. To investigate unculturable bacteria without isolating them, culture-independent methods such as sequencing have been used. Unculturable bacteria can be identified by PCR amplification and sequencing of housekeeping genes such…

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How to Transform Microalgae

What is the first image which comes to mind when you think about microalgae? Green scum that covers the surfaces of ponds? Unsightly stains on pavements and walls? Far from being a nuisance in ponds, lakes, drains and on surfaces, microalgae are fascinating microorganisms which are used to understand various biological processes. Microalgae have been…

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Assays: Wellular to Cellular

Out with the Old… Well-based assays have been the standard for common laboratory experiments, such as fluorescence cytometry. A researcher places a small amount of sample into a well on a plate and assays it, which produces a single data point. However, this so-called single data point is actually an average of the measurements of…

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How to Feed Fruit Fly Larvae Small Molecules

Generally speaking, fruit flies are a great model system. Not only are they small, thus taking up very little space in the lab, but their adult lifespan is only 40-60 days, so you can track age-dependent changes without having to wait months and months. Fruit flies also display complex behaviors and more than 75% of…

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Emerging Model Microorganisms Take to the Stage

Estimates indicate that there may be up to 2 billion living species of organisms, each with conserved and unique biological mechanisms that are vital for survival. How do scientists understand them all? Enter model organisms. Model organisms, as the name implies, are living things which are used as representative models for understanding other organisms. They…

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Gender Reveal: How to Determine the Gender of Drosophila Larvae

Drosophila melanogaster, otherwise known as the common fruit fly, is one of the oldest and most powerful model systems used in biology. Fruit flies are cheap to maintain, and have a shorter life cycle and higher fecundity than mammalian models. They also have extraordinary genetic tools with which to investigate many molecular and cellular questions.…

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Greenhouse Maintenance: Keeping Your (Green) Laboratory Clean

Cleaning the lab is one of the hardest jobs because it’s dull and repetitive. However, nobody in their sound scientific mind would argue that this can be avoided. Dust accumulates bugs, bacteriophages, and RNAses that can stray into your experiment and ruin it. Old boxes piling up is a fire hazard. Anybody who refuses to…

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10 Tips on Mating Mice Successfully

Tiny, furry, spinning around a wheel – few creatures are as endearing as the lab mouse. Trying to obtain reproductive success with them, however, can leave you spinning your own wheels. Why is it that what works so well for the animal facility staff, or experienced technician, seems to be beyond your reach? After all,…

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3 Ways to Use Flow Cytometry for Your Activation Experiment

Studying immune cell activation allows scientists to understand the way the body mounts a response to a specific infection, autoimmune diseases, or cancer. This knowledge plays a direct role in developing more efficacious vaccines and therapies. When tasked with capturing information on immune cell activation, flow cytometry remains the gold standard due to its versatility,…

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