Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Summer Breath

Vermont winters have a beauty that spares fragile stems of dead leaves encased in ice from snapping, and a brutality that can bring large, strong branches from healthy trees crashing to the ground. The human body, and the spirit it embodies that enables us to persevere the diseases and burdens that can storm it, encapsulates this same dichotomy. I have lived through decades of Vermont winters, and each year the question “will this be the winter that breaks me?” comes progressively earlier, and shoveling out the answer “no” takes more work as it becomes buried deeper the older I get.

Just before this latest blizzard hit, Conn Carey from Luxcel Biosciences in Cork, Ireland visited the BioTek Applications Lab. We are collaborating to optimize the parameters for detecting a family of time resolved fluorescent probes on various BioTek readers. These probes measure intra- and extracellular oxygen and extracellular pH, all predominately used in the study of cell metabolism. As cancer cells have a code for survival that has yet to be broken, how they breathe, eat, and proliferate to take over an otherwise healthy body are important and ongoing research questions looking for answers. The Luxcel MitoXpress® -Intra Oxygen Consumption probes can be used to measure how cells breathe in response to various stimuli, and work such that increases in intracellular oxygen concentration result in decreased probe signal, while conversely decreases in intracellular oxygen concentration result in higher probe signal. This is demonstrated below by images obtained on the BioTek Cytation 3 using the gas controller to progressively decrease oxygen (O2) levels delivered to HepG2 cells (a human liver carcinoma cell line) over 40 minute kinetic intervals at 12%, 6%, and 3% (left to right, no enhancement).

Cytation 3 images

I’ve developed many survival techniques for making it through Vermont winters, and sometimes the season still wins. Today, I adjust my ear buds and select random shuffle on my winter playlist. The first song is "Summer Breeze" (Seals & Crofts, 1972, Warner Bros. Records). As a typical ‘70s wild child an alternative botanical was blowing through my mind the year that song was released, but now I can anticipate the lighting of a midnight jasmine Yankee Candle that I hope my 14 year old daughter, who loves shopping for aromatics, will present to me on Christmas. I take a deep summer breath, plate my cells, and look into the dark “know”.

By: BioTek Insturments, Wendy Goodrich, Applications Scientist

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