Science has recently begun to establish some of the tools that might let us develop a form of synthetic life. Developing cells from scratch ought to let us understand a whole lot more about what actually constitutes a living organism, while making it possible to generate simpler (yet no less sophisticated) life-like organisms that can be more predictably manipulated.1
Throughout the last several years, scientists have been debating whether there is a reproducibility crisis in biomedical research. It’s no surprise: how often are you able to repeat the exact results of your own experiments, let alone those from another lab? Sure, there’s a certain amount of variability given the nature of complex cellular systems. However, if the idea is to use these findings for something bigger, then reproducing results is critical. So, why does it appear that results can’t be corroborated very frequently? And how big of an issue is it really?
Lab fails happen to the best of us. We started a contest to commemorate the veterans who have experienced these traumatic or hilarious moments. You all sent us your best work, and we’re happy to announce the winners here, in our blog. These lucky people will receive both the distinction of having the best (worst?) lab fail of the month as well as a stylish GiantMicrobes DNA plushy. Without further ado, here are your best lab fails of March 2019:
Anyone who’s ever worked in a research lab knows that failure is as inevitable as death or taxes. Imagine having to perform a finicky technique from scratch, without previous experience or the help of anyone well-versed in it either. After the hundredth time—I swear it took a lot more than that to finally get it right—the stress can become difficult to manage and solutions start to feel like a far-off fantasy. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to manage failure in the lab and come back stronger.
So, it’s your first time running an experiment? Doesn’t matter if it's something as straightforward as PCR or as complex as ChIP, you'll need to figure out what you’re doing and the best way to do it. A well-run lab usually has a large dictionary of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for a variety of techniques. But what if your lab doesn’t have a protocol for the technique you require? Here, we’ll review some best practices for developing your own set of SOPs in the lab and how they’ll help you and others in your lab get consistent results.
Climate change is a global phenomenon with wide-ranging and potentially disastrous effects for the entire human population. The consumption of fossil fuels (e.g. coal, oil, and gas) combined with mass deforestation has led to exorbitantly high atmospheric CO2 levels that were only last recorded 800,000 years ago. These high CO2 levels have resulted in a significant increase in the average global temperature, a key factor that has led to the polar ice caps melting at an accelerated pace, making the seas warmer and sea levels higher.1 Heat waves are much stronger than they used to be, record-breaking hurricanes occur much more frequently than before, and we’ve lost nearly 60% of the world’s wildlife.2 It’s been well-documented that these changes are a result of human activities, as worldwide economic and technological progress has led to a consistent increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Altogether, this has led to a rise in the average global temperature of nearly one degree Celsius since 1901, with the rate of global warming having doubled since 1975.3
Barcodes are used worldwide as one of the most efficient means of tracking packages and containers. However, the use of barcodes is not solely limited to labels. Living organisms can also be barcoded genetically, allowing individual cells to be monitored and tracked.
Valentine’s day is a special day for couples around the world. For those who believe that love is blind, it doesn’t really matter how or why they love their significant other; they simply love them because of who they are, no matter what (unless they leave the toilet seat up, then things get a little hairy). For scientists, though, studying love represents an intriguing challenge, from both evolutionary and biochemical perspectives. By studying humans and other monogamous animals—the prairie vole, in particular—researchers have devised biological theories that explain the reasons behind why we love and how our bodies react to affection and desire.
Whether you have banks of cell lines stored in liquid nitrogen or assay reagents constantly consumed, managing your inventory is necessary to keep your lab running smoothly. That means having processes and workflows in place to guarantee the lab is working at peak efficiency, as well as having the proper material and infrastructure to track and manage your assets. Below, we’ll discuss some of the ways you can efficiently manage your inventory and keep track of everything in your lab.
Gene expression microarrays generate extremely high amounts of transcriptomic data. These datasets may account for thousands of genes from hundreds of different individuals and can be used to identify genes associated with a particular disease or to assess gene expression profiles in response to a given therapy. Transcriptomic datasets are usually uploaded to a larger database, such as Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO), where others can review the data and draw their own conclusions. In effect, these datasets don’t just shape the hypothesis of the paper from which it was published; they influence all other scientists using those datasets to guide their own research.