Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gregory Hines, Usher, and…the Cytation™ 3?

My daughter (seen above) is a dancer, and has been since the age of 3. Most evenings you can find me driving her to and from the two dance studios which she attends to take classes in multiple forms of dance, including contemporary, jazz, musical theater, tap, and ballet. Many times as I am watching her, I am amazed that one hour she can be moving as graceful as a swan, then with a quick change of shoes and a drink of water, her feet are tapping faster than a penguin in "Happy Feet", and then with a final change she is dancing so cool and smooth, even Usher would be proud. I’m also amazed at how she can make a difficult variation from "The Nutcracker" look so easy to perform; even when dancing en pointe.

This is much the same with the Cytation 3 Cell Imaging Multi-Mode Reader. In a typical day researchers can analyze the potential cytotoxic effect of a test compound through the use of a luminescent cell viability kit, assess protein-protein interactions using a TR-FRET assay, determine transfection efficiency through image-based subpopulation analyses, and monitor reactive oxygen species activation in real time using kinetic microscopy, just to name a few possibilities. The imager, combined with its data analysis package, Gen5, can also make difficult types of analysis, such as that from 3D tumor invasion assays become much easier to accomplish.

(3D tumor invasion in response to CXCL12 chemoattractant monitored over 120 hours)

While we might not see the Cytation 3 starring in any upcoming episodes of "Dancing With the Stars", I would venture to say that the smiles appearing after seeing the images and data generated from a complicated experiment will be very similar to those I have every time I see my daughter dance.

By: BioTek Instruments, Brad Larson, Principal Scientist

Thursday, September 11, 2014

6 Signs You Were in College in the 1990’s

  1. You made transparencies for your class presentations. You can still remember it: the heat of the overhead projector light, the smell of the erasable markers, the taste of your fingertip as you try to quickly wipe away a mistake. At the time, this was advanced technology policed by the school’s A/V department. Nowadays, everyone can walk around with their own pocket-sized projector when a tablet screen just won't do.
  2. You had a small collection of floppy disks. Okay, maybe it was a large collection since those things couldn’t hold much data anyway. Now, we can transfer and store files up to 128 GB in a tiny thumbdrive, the size of, well, your thumb.
  3. The Discman served all of your portable music needs. It was the perfect device - unless you actually wanted to use it while moving. And if 3-second skip protection wasn’t enough, you were probably first in line when the first MP3 players came to market in the late 1990's which paved the way for, you know.
  4. Beep!Beep! Beep! Is that my pager going off? Oh, it's yours. All over college campuses, you didn't have to be prescribing drugs or dealing drugs to carry a pager. It was the easiest way for people to find you at ALL times. An omen of things to come...
  5. "You've got mail!" AOL gave us this iconic tagline, Instant Messenger and inspired a movie! It seemed like they could do no wrong, but now their popularity has faded away to the point where anyone younger than 20 may have to Google it.
  6. What has an eyepiece, a stage, a focus knob and objectives? That's right, a microscope. There’s no doubt that you used one in your college years and continue to use one today. Unlike the examples above, you may not see much of a difference in terms of outward appearance. But much like the examples above, technology has vastly improved. Just like your smartphone has apps for your everyday needs, the Cytation 3 has modules for your scientific needs - including imaging, in a single device. See it for yourself, don't get stuck in the 90's!

By: BioTek Instruments, Ellaine Abueg Ph.D., Product Manager, Specialist

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Desk Selfie Caption Contest


What do an article on ‘Interpretation and estimation of relative potency in vaccines’ and the cover of the July 2014 issue of Food Technology magazine have in common? You tell us! We are holding a contest to select a winning caption for this selfie of my desk (of course there is a prize). We will be accepting captions for the picture via the Comments of this blog posting. The caption can be a traditional ‘cartoon’ format such as found in newspapers or magazines, or a take on how a scientist may describe the visual as a Figure or illustration in a published paper or conference poster. An example caption could be something like: “Ok, I was really good getting my Bordetella vaccine at the vet today, so hurry and serve up my reward s’il vous plaĆ®t”. There are no restrictions on who may participate or be eligible for the prize, but all entries are reviewed for content. The winner and ‘honorable mentions’ will be announced during our free webinar ‘Estimating Relative Potency for CVB using Gen5 Software’ September 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm EST (11:30 am sign-in). You may register for the event here. Woof Moo Neigh Meow...

By: BioTek Instruments, Wendy Goodrich, Applications Scientist

Thursday, August 14, 2014


On August 10, the world was dazzled by the second Supermoon of 2014. Millions of people around the world saw the spectacular moon, millions of photos were shared on social media and millions of people talked about the Supermoon over the water cooler, at the grocery store and at the gas station. Besides being one of the most amazing visual treats in the night sky, this Supermoon enticed people to sit and quietly behold it’s beauty…to stop our busy lives for a minute, an hour – just to look, wonder and imagine. Parents everywhere doubtless woke their children up from sound sleeps to bring them outside, to look up at the sky and share nature’s wonder as a family. The moon has always fascinated humankind…and the Supermoons serve to re-kindle our fascination with all things astronomical. Scientists now study celestial events with technologies that are, at the same time, remarkably unchanged from early science, but vastly improved over time; this is true of instruments used in many scientific fields. The images we've seen of the perigee moon (as it’s known to astronomists) over the past few days are just incredible and awe-inspiring. Here’s a beautifully detailed image, taken by our colleague, Caleb Foster:

Photo taken in Jericho, Vermont, with a Meade 2080B Schmidt Cassegrain 8” telescope and Nikon D800 camera. 
The next Supermoon is in September 2014…the world will be waiting and watching!

By: BioTek Instruments, Lenore Buehrer, Senior Product Marketing Manager

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Therapeutic Cloning: A Next Step in Embryonic Stem Cell Production

It is probably safe to say that after the third peer reviewed publication reporting the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to produce embryonic stem cells (NT-ESCs) the method has the promise to aid scientists in the study of disease in the coming years 1-3. It is well established that iPSC derived stem cells and ESCs differ in several key areas, including epigenesis and differentiation. These differences are considered to be partially due to the reprogramming mechanisms and methods used to induce reprogramming. Other evidence points to the epigenetic memory of the somatic cells used during reprogramming which can lead to variability in the extent of reversion to an epigenetic signature similar to ESCs.

The development of methods to produce NT-ESCs has sparked considerable interest regarding how stem cells derived by this method compare to iPSCs and the "gold standard" ESCs. A recent publication indicates that NT-ESCs are more closely related to ESCs than iPSCs using several methods such as DNA methylation and transcriptome profiles4. While NT-ESCs are more closely identifiable with ESCs, more work is needed to provide functional comparisons between the various stem cell types. The findings from future lines of investigation are likely to play a large part in selection of the appropriate method to generate stem cells for therapeutic use. It may be that each method will provide stem cells amenable to a specific therapeutic application where another type may fail.
Stay tuned!

1Chung, YG. et al. Cell Stem Cell 14(6), 777-780 (2014)
2Tachibana, M. et al. Cell 153, 1228–1238 (2013)
3Yamada, M. et al. Nature 510, 533-536 (2014)
4Ma, H. et al. Nature 511, 177-183 (2014)

By: BioTek Instruments, Peter J. Brescia Jr., MSc, MBA

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Brasil Biofuel

Here at BioTek we have been interested in biofuel research for some time. Our interests were largely US-centric and focused on both second and third generation biofuel production since generating ethanol from foodstuffs like corn while widely done in the US, are simply non-sustainable.  We not only need the food, but the conversion of corn starches to ethanol is relatively inefficient (it requires petroleum).  In most cases, cars in the US run on petroleum with some augmentation of ethanol from corn – about 10%.

So I was amazed to find cars in Brazil running on 100% ethanol.  Brazil’s decades-old ethanol fuel program is based on the most efficient sugarcane cultivation in the world. Sugarcane-based ethanol has an energy balance that is 7 times greater than that of corn-based ethanol.  There are no longer any cars in Brazil running on 100% gasoline.  Instead, there are flexible-fuel vehicles that can run on 100% gasoline, 100% ethanol or any blend of gasoline/ethanol. But beware of switching fuels! There is a sensor in Brazilian cars for which fuel is being used. If fuel is switched when the tank is near empty, then the vehicle must run for about 10 km otherwise the sensor gets confused and will require replacement as the car won't start! Ethanol is cheaper than gasoline, provides more power but gets about 35% less mileage.

Ethanol is cheap in Brazil!

Together, Brazil and the US lead the world in the industrial production of ethanol fuel, accounting together for almost 90% percent of the world's production. Brazil is considered to have the world's first sustainable biofuels economy based on first generation methods, largely due to its enormous amount of highly arable land available.  Sugarcane grows like weeds in Brazil; in the US, weeds grow like weeds so we must be content to develop second and third generation biofuel production methods...

 Sugarcane stretches to the horizon around Ribeirao Preto

By: BioTek Instruments, Peter Banks Ph.D., Scientific Director

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Wanna share? No way, just get your own!

Sharing is a fundamental lesson taught during childhood. You had to share your toys, share your treats and, inadvertently, even share your germs. It’s not any different in adulthood either. At homes around the world, it has been a long-standing tradition, and some might even say crucial to human existence, to share our money by providing food, clothing and shelter to our family. It doesn’t stop there either - at work, we may be expected to share equipment. And I’m not talking about the ruler you keep lending out… I’m talking about the washers, readers and microscopes in the core lab. Let me remind you about what’s NOT fun about sharing here:

  • You have to sign up ahead of time. The only opening is Thursday but your cells are going to be ready on Tuesday! And more bad news: the person who signed up for Tuesday wrote in pen.
  • Not everyone is as clean as you are. Biohazard signs are everywhere but someone snuck in a granola bar. Or you have to work with sticky surfaces. It could be Gatorade, or it could be something else. You’re better off not smelling it to make sure.
  • Who gets the blame? Hopefully, only the settings are wrong but most likely, it needs to be repaired. Either way, it definitely wasn't me.

I know, I know, sometimes you don’t have a choice but to share equipment. But sometimes you do have a choice and it’s always better to have your own. That’s when you call BioTek. 

Every scientist has a funny/scary/unbelievable story to share about core lab equipment. I've even heard it to be comparable to sharing a toothbrush. Amuse us by writing it in the comments below! 

By: BioTek Instruments, Ellaine Abueg Ph.D., Product Manager, Specialist