Monday, March 3, 2014

A Human mutation that prevents Diabetes

Investigators at Amgen, Pfizer and DeCODE  have discovered a mutation in a zinc transporter that appears to prevent the onset of Diabetes.  This will likely have significant therapeutic interest.

Friday, February 28, 2014

How to develop a clear and engaging presentation

A key part of the training in the Capital Biotechnology program is to enable students to develop a clear and engaging presentation. In this video,  Susan  McConnell  presents some very useful tips on creating a clear and interesting scientific presentation.  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Scientists Transform Skin Cells into Functioning Liver Cells

In our intro Biotechnology course , there  has been considerable interest in generating reagents  useful for the development of functional liver cells.  In this report, investigators at the Gladstone Institute  report success in  transforming  human skin cells into functioning liver cells. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Foundations of Molecular Cloning - Past, Present and Future

A very useful and practical article  on the history and application of molecular cloning.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Maintaining curiosity: a survey into science education in schools

 A recent report from Ofsted  provides an analysis of the  successful application of inquiry based learning to science  education.
" Physicians take an oath that commits them to ‘first do no harm’. The best science teachers, seen as part of this survey, set out to ‘first maintain curiosity’ in their pupils. The most successful schools visited during this survey had adopted this as a key principle in teaching science and this not only fostered enthusiasm for the subject in their pupils but helped them to fulfil their potential.
We need better science education to secure a strong foundation for a successful and technological society. The new National Curriculum for 2014 sets out why we teach science in schools:
‘A high-quality science education provides the foundations for understanding the world through the specific disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics. Science has changed our lives and is vital to the world’s future prosperity, and all pupils should be taught essential aspects of the knowledge, methods, processes and uses of science. Through building up a body of key foundational knowledge and concepts, pupils should be encouraged to recognise the power of rational explanation and develop a sense of excitement and curiosity about natural phenomena. They should be encouraged to understand how science can be used to explain what is occurring, predict how things will behave, and analyse causes.’
This report highlights the importance of teaching science for understanding. For pupils to achieve well in science, they must not only acquire the necessary knowledge, but also understand its value, enjoy the experience of working scientifically, and sustain their interest in learning it. Pupils in schools need to discover the concepts revealed through observing scientific phenomena and conducting experimental investigations for themselves. Then they are more likely to continue to study science and use that learning for work, for family, and to contribute as informed citizens."

Inquiry Exercise 20 - Patient sera challenge - Student Results November 2013

Excellent  results  !
All groups correctly identified patient 1 as negative and patients 2 and 3 as positive.  Some examples of Agarose Gel  electrophoresis of small RNAs in serum  are shown below:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Inquiry Exercise 20 - An Assay to Diagnose Cancer - Student results - Nov 2013

An excellent  interactive session in the lab today . Everyone worked together to get the analysis done ! Below is the agarose gel electrophoresis that we ran today. The small RNA can be seen in all samples ! Very cool !

Building it big in Texas: Community college program trains biotech workforce

A very useful review of the ways in which NSF-ATE  support,  BIO-Link  and Community Colleges  are  training a vigorous Biotech work force in Texas.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Inquiry Exercise 30 - Purification of plasmid DNA

Challenge - To  develop a purification method for plasmid DNA from first principles .

Students are provided with a bacterial culture that harbors plasmid DNA. After a review of the properties of plasmid and chromosomal DNA, students will develop a method to purify plasmid DNA.


 Demonstration of the purity of the plasmid DNA preps.

Inquiry Exercise 21 - Identifying a factor that changes phenotype - The Griffith experiment Redux

Challenge:  To identify the factor that confers resistance to ampicillin.

Students are provided with almost identical bacterial strains that only differ in their sensitivity to ampicillin.  Students review classic experiments on the factors that confer phenotype. They then design experiments to isolate and  confirm the function of factors that militate resistance to ampicillin.


Functional demonstration

Inquiry Exercise 18 - Fall 2013 - Student Results

Excellent work , all groups  were successfull in making DNA  ! Milestone validations are  below !

Inquiry Exercise 25 - The Diagnosis of AIDS

Challenge  -  To  develop  an assay for AIDS

Students  will review the  molecular basis of AIDS and will develop a diagnostic assay.  In these deliberations,  students  should  consider the basic  principles of  protein-protein interactions  as  outlined in the General Biology and Basic Techniques in Biotechnology course.

As in typical inquiry exercises , discuss with your group,  ask for materials  and perform experiments that may convince the instructor that you have indeed  established such an assay. 

The milestone  will be the  diagnosis of a provided set of serum samples ( N.B.   these samples  are mimics and are not real human samples ).   

Monday, November 11, 2013

Inquiry Exercise 20 - An Assay to Diagnose Cancer.

Challenge - Devise a serum  diagnostic assay  for Cancer

You have formed a small company  that seeks to  market a test that can  diagnose cancer before it is clinically apparent.  Angel investors have provided 5 million dollars.   In your analysis of the  current literature,  you have noted that  it has been observed that  tumor cells can shed cell content into  blood. Thus, it should be possible to identify such cell content in a serum sample  and predict the presence of cancer  before it is clinically observable.

  As in typical inquiry exercises , discuss with your group,  ask for materials  and perform experiments that may convince the instructor that you have indeed  established such an  assay.

The milestone of this inquiry exercise   will  be  the  correct diagnosis of a provided set of  patient sera ( N.B.  these are mimics and not real human sera ) .

Monday, October 28, 2013

Histopathologists at work !

This video  illustrates a real case study and the discussions  necessary to make conclusions  about immunohistochemical staining.