Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fun Facts: Students calculate how much time is required to perform teleportation as seen on Star Trek

Photo of James Doohan as Scotty from the
television program Star Trek
The University of Leicester's Journal of Physics Special Topics is a yearly publication that features papers by 4th year Master of Physics students. The students are encouraged to select imaginative topics and four students decided to assess the power and time required to send the data that represents a human from earth to a location in circular orbit above the earth in their paper entitled 'Travelling by Teleportation'.

The students assumed that the data of a human, represented by the DNA pairs of the genome, could be the basis for the information that would be transferred. From this they calculated the basic data to fully map the human brain and then assumed that a bandwidth of 29.5 to 30 GHz would be used. Based on this it would require up to 4.85 quadrillion years to complete the transfer of data. To put this in perspective the universe is believed to be only 14 billion years old.

Their calculations also showed that the energy required for teleportation is dependent on bandwidth. So decreasing time creates an increase in power consumption. In short it will be a very long time before teleportation will be quick and energetically cheap.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

FAQ: What is xenotransplantation?

Xenotransplantation; the transplantation of cells and tissues between species; is typically characterized by an insurmountably high rate of transplant rejection as the host immune system identifies the tissue from another species and seeks to destroy the donor tissue. Using high amounts of immune-suppressive drugs can help but is associated with other problems.  Recent results from research performed at Northwestern University School of Medicine have taken the first step to making transplantation from animals to humans without immune-suppression a reality.

Mouse pancreatic islet (visualized by immunofluorescent
microscopy [red = insulin antibody])by Jakob Suckale
The project focused on transplantation of pancreatic islets from rats to mice without using immune-suppressive drugs. The goal is to eventually be able to transplant islets from a pig to a human as a way of treating type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is characterized by islets that do not produce insulin; so transplanting functional islets would lead to regulated insulin production and normal glucose levels. Current treatments sometimes involve the transplant of islets from deceased individuals to patients suffering from type 1 diabetes. However, donors are in short supply and in the mean time patients that are waiting suffer from damage to a variety of organs including the heart and eyes.

Though the scientists admit that this is a baby step, it is exciting that they could perform the transplant without using immune-suppressive drugs.

A summary of the research was used for this blog which can be found at:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fun facts: On this date in science history

This diagram show how Dolly the sheep was
made. A similar approach was used to make
In 1997 a Scottish group at the Roslin Institute produced Polly, a cloned sheep that carried a human transgene. This was the same group that had earlier produced the first animal cloned from an adult somatic cell, Dolly.

In order to create Polly, scientists used sheep fibroblasts into which a transgene was inserted that was designed to express the protein human clotting factor IX in the milk of the sheep. These fibroblasts then underwent the same nuclear transfer that allowed for the cloning of Dolly. The goal was to demonstrate the potential of recombinant DNA technology and cloning to produce therapeutic proteins that could be used to treat human disease. Clotting factor IX was chosen due to its essential role in coagulation and use in treatment of hemophilia B.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

FAQ: How can we beat multi-drug resistance?

Each day there seems to be another report on the problem of multi-drug resistant strains of pathogens that cause a number of serious diseases. Although the most common approach to solve this problem is the development of new drugs a recent report finds that this approach may not be the best strategy.

Methicillin-resistant S aureus (yellow) being ingested by
neutrophil (purplish blue) [author: NIAID/NIH]
A mathematical study performed by scientists at Queen's University in Canada found that the best way to treat a disease is to slow down the evolution of the pathogens. They assume that each new drug is used to treat a disease until resistance evolves. Then a new drug will be used to treat the disease and the process is repeated. Slowing the rate of evolution will slow the development of resistance and increase the lifespan of an individual drug.

So how does one slow down evolution of resistance? The authors propose several possibilities including: reducing inappropriate use of anti-microbials and determining optimal dosage. It is most likely  that a combination of better practices and development of new therapies will be necessary to combat the ongoing problem of multi-drug resistance.

The authors paper can be found at:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Did you know: Scientists believe they have discovered a missing link in the evolution of bioluminescence

Bioluminescence originated 400 million years ago in jellyfish and has become a cornerstone in the world of medical research. As an example the BMG LABTECH website has over 150 citations, posters and application notes that deal with bioluminescence. The critical enzyme in creating bioluminescence is luciferase and a recent report in the journal Biochemistry describes the discovery of a luciferase-like enzyme that they believe illuminates how luciferase is able to cause luminescence.

An example of a bioluminescent ctenophore
The article entitled: 'A Route from Darkness to Light: Emergence and Evolution of Luciferase Activity in AMP-CoA-Ligases Inferred from a Mealworm Luciferase-like Enzyme' describes not only the characterization of the luciferase-like enzyme but also how they were able to manipulate the enzyme to become more like luciferase. They were able to create mutations that changed individual amino acids in the enzyme leading to increased luciferase activity and when they created a fusion protein they were able make a totally new orange-emitting luciferase.

The understanding gained from this study could allow scientists to develop brighter luciferases that shine in a variety of colors.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Focus on: Events

Next week BMG LABTECH is happy to be one of the sponsors for the DNA Tumor Virus Meeting in Birmingham, UK. The meeting runs from the 22nd to the 27th and is the primary conference for scientists who study viral pathogens that cause human cancers.

Please introduce yourself to the BMG LABTECH representatives in attendance to learn about the microplate readers that we offer to assist your research.

For more information on this and other meetings which BMG LABTECH will attend please visit the Events page at our website:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Applications Thursday: Using the FLUOstar Optima for the Detection of Lonza's Kinetic Endotoxin Kit

Endotoxins or lipopolysaccharides (LPS) often contaminate plasmid DNA and protein preparations that are isolated from gram-negative bacteria. This contamination can have serious consequences as even small amounts of LPS can lead to an inflammatory response resulting in sepsis in a condition called endotoxemia. LPS must, therefore, be detected and eliminated if the DNA or protein are to be used in in vivo applications like gene therapy.

The BMG LABTECH application note entitled: 'Lonza’s Kinetic Kit for Endotoxin Detection Using the FLUOstar OPTIMA and MARS Data Analysis' describes an approach that allows users to confidently detect LPS contamination. Lonza's kinetic kit contains a proenzyme that is activated in the presence of endotoxin which cleaves a colorless peptide to release p-nitroaniline which is detectable at 405 nm.
Signal curves for several endotoxin samples taken directly
from MARS data analysis software.

Kinetic signal curves for standards and unknown could then be produced and analyzed in the MARS data analysis software that is provided with all BMG LABTECH microplate readers. The result of the analysis is a standard curve that can be used to reliably determine the concentration of LPS in the unknown samples.

For the details of this and other applications suitable for use on BMG LABTECH microplate readers please visit the Applications Center at our website:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fun facts: Keeping cool on this date in science history

Willis Carrier in 1915
On July 17th 1902, Willis Carrier finished the drawings for what is now recognized as the first air conditioning system. Originally designed as a means of controlling humidity at a printing plant the drawings were later improved by Carrier for use in what is a recognizable air-conditioning system. As summertime heat takes hold in the northern hemisphere we can all be thankful for the work of the so-called 'Father of Air Conditioning.'

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

FAQ: What are endotoxins?

Structure of endotoxin from E. Coli K-12

Endotoxins are synonymous with lipopolysaccharides (LPS) which are found in the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria. They are often contaminants in preparations of DNA and protein isolated from bacteria and lead to sepsis if even trace amounts are present. Detection and elimination of LPS is essential for the DNA and protein isolated from bacteria to be used.

BMG LABTECH application note # 237 describes the use of an endotoxin detection kit from Lonza which employs the FLUOstar Optima microplate reader to perform the kinetic quantitation. Since this application relies on absorbance detection it would also be suitable for use on the Omega and PHERAstar series of readers as well as the SPECTROstar Nano, NOVOstar and the new CLARIOstar.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Focus on: Helicases

E. Coli RuvA protein

Helicases are enzymes whose function is vital to the life of all organisms. Helicases are motor proteins which are fueled by ATP to move along and separate nucleic acid strands. Since there is great variety in the processes that require separation of nucleic acid strands there is a corresponding variety in helicases. The cellular processes which require helicase activity include: DNA replication, transcription of DNA to RNA,  and translation of RNA to protein. In addition; DNA repair and recombination also employ helicases.

Due to their involvement in so many important processes, the specific inhibition of helicases from pathogens is a possible route for developing new drugs to treat this pathogens. An approach designed to identify small molecule inhibitors of helicases is described in the BMG LABTECH application note entitled: Molecular Beacon based helicase assays on the FLUOstar Omega. For more details please visit the applications center of our website at:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Applications Thursday: Molecular Beacon Helicase Assay

The Molecular Beacon Helicase Assay (MBHA) was designed to improve detection of helicase activity in order to identify small molecule inhibitors of helicase. The development of this assay is desirable due to the importance of helicases in maintaining infections mediated by viruses and other pathogens. The ability to maintain infections stems from the diverse functions of helicases in processes such as DNA replication and RNA transcription.

Simplified diagram of the structure of Hepatitis C virus
BMG LABTECH application note #241 describes an MBHA that was designed to detect inhibitors of the NS3 helicase from the hepatitis C virus. The performance of this MBHA relies on the molecular beacon substrate, which is two nucleotide strands annealed together. One of the strands has both a quencher and a fluorophore at either end so that when it is annealed to the other strand in the substrate a high level of fluorescence is detected. The strands of the substrate are further designed to form stem-loop structures once they have been separated such that the fluorophore and quencher are brought into proximity and fluorescence decreases when the strands are separated by an active helicase.
MBHA principle: Helicase (green) unwinds double-stranded
DNA using ATP. Resulting in fluorescent label (blue star)
that is brought close to a quencher (grey).

The experiments described were performed using a FLUOstar Omega but other BMG LABTECH microplate readers such as the POLARstar Omega,  PHERAstar FS and the CLARIOstar are compatible with this type of assay. For more information on this application and these products please visit:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fun fact: On This Date In Science History

by Anasalialmalla
On July 10th, 1962 at Cape Canaveral, Florida the first active communications satellite was launched into geosynchronous orbit. The Telstar 1 was pioneered by AT&T and enabled the relay of telephone and television signals between Europe and the United States. This satellite successfully provided the first transatlantic television feed. The first scheduled broadcast was remarks by President John F. Kennedy. However, the first actual broadcast, which filled the lead in time before the Presidents remarks, was a short segment of a baseball game at Wrigley Field between the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Did you know: Ribosomes have now been synthesized in a test tube?

Structure and shape of the E.coli 70S ribosome.
by Vossman

Ribosomes are the multi-subunit complexes that are responsible for translating messenger RNA into proteins. These proteins in turn carry out the many functions that are necessary for a cell to survive. Furthermore; proteins can have functions that are useful for the entire organism in the form of antibodies, enzymes and hormones.

A ribosome is composed of 57 parts; 54 of which are themselves proteins. The remaining 3 parts are strands of RNA. Working together, these parts move across a strand of messenger RNA and assemble the amino acids that compose a protein based on the RNA sequence.

Now, for the first time, ribosomes have been synthesized in vitro; in conditions that mimic the natural process of ribosome assembly. The details of this process are described in the recently published Molecular Systems Biology article entitled: 'In vitro integration of ribosomal RNA synthesis, ribosome assembly, and translation'. This article describes the collaborative efforts between scientists at Northwestern University and Harvard Medical School. The authors describe an integrated synthesis, assembly and translation approach which they call iSAT. This approach; which used synthetic ribosomal RNA and native E. coli protein resulted in a functional ribosome based on the ability to translate messenger RNA into an active protein.

The authors believe that iSAT is just the first step. It is their hope that they will be able to eventually create a fully synthetic ribosome. However, even with the current ribosome they hope to better understand ribosomal function which could lead to new antibiotics and allow us to make ribosomes with altered capabilities.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Focus on: Events

Next week BMG LABTECH will be at ON Helix in Cambridge, UK. This one day event is intended to inform participants how to turn their ideas into new health treatments through interactions between academia and business. Please stop by and see the BMG LABTECH representatives at booth # 40 to see how our microplate readers will assist this process.

For more information on this and other events which BMG LABTECH will be attending around the world please visit the Events Page on BMG LABTECH's website:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fun facts: The official names for the recently discovered moons of Pluto have been announced

Illustration of Cerberus by Philippe Semeria
The new moons of Pluto, that were discovered in 2011 and 2012, have now been officially given the names Kerberos and Styx. The names were, in part, chosen by a naming contest which required that the names be from classical mythology and reference the underworld.

Kerberos (the Greek spelling of Cerberus) is the many headed dog that guarded the entrance to the underworld and Styx is the name of the goddess that ruled over the underworld river of the same name.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

FAQ: Are there any new targets for the treatment of brain cancer?

Scientists at the University of Virginia Cancer Center have identified a potential target for the treatment of glioblastoma; the most prevalent form of brain cancer. This cancer is also one of the most aggresive, and, despite intensive study, effective treatments have been elusive. It is hoped with the publication of: 'Diacylglycerol Kinase Is a Critical Signaling Node and Novel Therapeutic Target in Glioblastoma and Other Cancers' that a number of new treatments will be revealed.

One reason that cancers, such as glioblastoma, have evaded treatment is that they seem to use multiple pathways to achieve continual growth. As a result, inhibition of one pathway is insufficient to have the desired growth halting effect. The authors of the paper, which was recently published in Cancer Discovery, sought a target which regulates multiple pathways. They found that inhibiting diacylglycerol kinase alpha (DGK alpha), which had been linked to several pathways related to cancer biology, led to cell death in glioblastoma cells!

Brain MRI
A single image of a brain using MRI. A bright blue color
where cancer metastasizes
by Dr. Leon Kaufman
Although there are a few small molecule inhibitors available for DGK alpha the search will now begin for additional candidate compounds. Kinase inhibitor screening is a job to which the PHERAstar microplate readers from BMG LABTECH are ideally suited. Regardless of the detection mode which you choose to use, the PHERAstar is an excellent reader for the high-throughput screening necessary to find inhibitors of DGK alpha or other kinase targets.