DNA Lab Talk

Flickr on DNA: BeadArray Gene Reading Panels

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted December 10, 2007 in DNA Lab Talk

Esther Dyson’s Flickr photostream is one of the few photo feeds I subscribe to because she’s all over the place participating in all sorts of amazingly smart events! Last week, she visited Illumina in San Diego.

illumina beadarray gene reading panel

The fascinating thing is how much the whole business of sequencing and reading genomes is a physical process, even though it is based on leading-edge science. On the one hand there are all the issues around millions of tiny beads, each of which is designed to detect a specific SNP (genetic variation); on the other, there’s the need to be absolutely, positively accurate in tracking a sample from arrival (with a unique but anonymous identifier) to the data that is read and analyzed at the end. Illumina does this by fanatical use of bar codes and automation; nothing is labeled or identified by a human. (Humans move things that are labeled, but machines identify each item at each step.)

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2007 Nobel Prize in Medicine Goes To Mice Geneticists

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 8, 2007 in DNA Lab Talk, Genetic Engineering

Congratulations to Mario R. Capecchi, Oliver Smithies, and Sir Martin J Evans who won the 2007 Nobel Prize in medicine today! The announcement was made just minutes ago and their pictures aren’t even up on the Nobel Prize site yet.

The 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to Mario R. Capecchi, Martin J. Evans, and Oliver Smithies for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells.

The three Nobel Laureates pioneered gene targeting in mice which can be used to inactivate single genes to create “knockout” mice. Over ten thousand mouse genes have been knocked out and studied thus far and over five hundred different mouse models of human disorders have been created.

knockout mice

More about the fascinating gene-targeting experiments in the Nobel Prize Press Release.

Photo: Knockout mice from Wellcome Images under Creative Commons

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Eye on DNA Links for 3 July 2007

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted July 3, 2007 in DNA Lab Talk, DNA and Disease, Eye on DNA Headlines, Personalities with DNA

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Nanosphere DNA Test Using Gold Nanoparticles

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted June 23, 2007 in DNA Inventions and Gadgets, DNA Lab Talk, DNA Testing

A biotech company in Illinois is hoping they have the Midas touch. Nanosphere has created DNA probes made of gold nanoparticles. The Verigene System is meant to “make molecular diagnostic testing simple, accessible, and flexible, but still provide the high sensitivity, accuracy, and rapid multiplex target detection required by these applications.” The benchtop system is currently under FDA review and incoporates the Verigene Reader, Verigene Processor, and Verigene Test Cartridges. Each analysis costs about $30 and takes 90 minutes to complete compared with other commercial tests which run up to $500 and require several weeks from start to finish.

The analysis of DNA or RNA targets follows this procedure:

1. Genomic DNA is loaded into a single-use “Test Cartridge.” Sonication shears the genomic DNA into 300 to 500 base-pair fragments so that they’re small enough to be probed.

2. The genomic DNA fragments hybridize (stick) to capture probes that are attached to a solid support base. Then, gold nanoparticles with oligonucleotide probes attached are added.

3. The entire complex is washed and gold nanoparticle probes that did not find a complementary genomic DNA fragment are removed.

nanosphere4. Elemental silver is deposited onto the gold nanoparticle probes which hybridized to a complementary DNA fragment. This amplifies the signal.

A video is also available for viewing.

According to Nanosphere CEO Bill Moffitt, approximately 35 million tests can be performed using the same amount of gold as the average wedding band. Nanosphere technology can be used in genetic diagnostics, pharmacogenetics, infectious diseases, and oncology.

More from CNNMoney.com
via Resource Investor

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Geeky Lab T-Shirt – NIH Summer Tour

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted May 15, 2007 in DNA Lab Talk, Geeky DNA T-shirts

Anyone who’s ever worked in a lab has gotten at least one or two free t-shirts from companies selling lab equipment or some event being held on campus. Here’s an old t-shirt of mine from the summer I spent at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland working in a malaria research lab. (Click on the images to see a larger verson.)

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Some of the seminars I attended:

  • Prospects for Gene Therapy given by Dr. R. Michael Blaese
  • The Molecular Biology and Pathophysiology of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy given by Dr. Neal D. Epstein
  • Molecular Regulation of Breast Cancer Progression given by Dr. Patricia S. Steeg
  • Nucleic Acid Presentation and Packaging Regulates Gene Expression given by Dr. Alan P Wolffe

Where’s your t-shirt? I’d love to feature yours and if you’re wearing it all the better. Email your photos to hsien [AT] eyeondna [DOT] com!

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Lab Help at Your Fingertips – OpenWetWare

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted April 28, 2007 in DNA Lab Talk

Laboratories are intimidating places. The glaringly bright fluorescent lights reflecting off the cold linoleum floors, large machines doing things that no mere mortal understands, black countertops scarred by acid and other chemicals, freezer after freezer of samples marked with biohazard signs…. Imagine yourself there on your first day without a clue where to stand so that you don’t contaminate something. You can prepare yourself by visiting OpenWetWare first.


Started at MIT by the Endy and Knight labs, OpenWetWare is a wiki that is open to everyone interested in laboratory procedures and exchange of scientific information. For instance, there’s a page on avoiding RNase contamination that says you should use separate sets of pipettors and avoid touching the barrel or metal ejector to the side of the tubes. Anyone can add to or edit the information already there just like The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia. Much of the existing content at OpenWetWare could use some fleshing out and there is much that hasn’t been included yet.

If you’re currently working in a lab involved in some form of biology, what are you waiting for? OpenWetWare is a great place to ask questions, share what you know, and congregate with other lab rats. Maybe I should go add what I know about electroporating malaria parasites, Plasmodium falciparum. Zap!

HT: Jason

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Geeky Lab T-Shirt – PCR Beads and Me

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted April 25, 2007 in DNA Lab Talk, Geeky DNA T-shirts

We’re ready to go.

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From a Pharmacia Biotech (now GE Healthcare Life Sciences) t-shirt I got during my lab days when I used PCR beads 90% of the time to perform a bajillion genotypes.

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