NanoDrop It Like Its Hot


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I just came across this video on the NanoDrop Technologies web site. The NanoDrop is a new spectrophotometer that is growing popular among molecular biology researchers due to its ease of use and time effective advantages over traditional spectrophotometers. I’ve been using it exclusively for getting DNA and RNA concentrations; the results have been great and much more reproducible than some of the old spectrophotometers around here. I think the video was well done by the students from Brown University.

My only question: If these students had time to shoot and edit this video, how did they also have time to put together enough research for two Nature publications?

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Getting Ready for Just Science 2008


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I am preparing to get involved in Just Science 2008, the second year of this week-long event promoting the discussion of peer-reviewed research on science blogs. The event has been organized both years by Razib at Gene Expression, who (like myself) seems to grow tired of the “alternative topics” dominating the themes of many of the science blogs out there.

The rules are pretty simple: for just five days, each participating blog can only post about science. You have to post at least one post per day for the week of February 4-8. Last year, we didn’t quite make that mark but this year I am getting started early and am determined to meet that goal.

I’d encourage any other science bloggers out there to sign up. It’s a great way to motivate yourself to write about some research that will interest your readers, and you’re likely to find new blogs through the aggregated feed offered during the week of Just Science.

On the other hand, if you can’t stand to only write about science for five days, don’t bother. The readers of the aggregate feed are only interested in hearing about science.

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Epigenetic Abnormalities in Animal Clones Downplayed in Report on Food Safety from FDA


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The Washington Post is reporting this week on a 968-page report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the safety of food from cloned animals that are now widely available.

A long-awaited final report from the Food and Drug Administration concludes that foods from healthy cloned animals and their offspring are as safe as those from ordinary animals, effectively removing the last U.S. regulatory barrier to the marketing of meat and milk from cloned cattle, pigs and goats.

The article from Washington Post staff writer Rick Weiss highlights one of the anomalies that FDA scientists acknowledge in cloned animals but have chosen to discount: their epigenetic abnormalities. Indeed, researchers are only beginning to unravel the role that epigenetics plays in the long-term health and viability of cloned organisms. Yet, the FDA doesn’t see this as a problem:

Finally, there was the overarching problem of deciding which measures would best predict whether the food was safe. Most puzzling was whether to take into account the subtle alterations in gene activity, called epigenetic changes, that are common in clones as a result of having just one parent.

In the end, facing the reality that epigenetics have never been a factor in assessing the wholesomeness of food, agency scientists decided to use the same simple but effective standard used by farmers since the dawn of agriculture: If a farm animal appears in all respects to be healthy, then presume that food from that animal is safe to eat.

While this seems to be a “no nonsense” approach to take in considering the potential impact of epigenetic changes in considerations of food safety, in some ways it wholly discounts the concerns that researchers have about epigenetic alterations in cloned animals.

In the report, the FDA promises a number of key areas that it will continue to survey going forward as cloning technologies and additional research becomes available, including new insight into the “biology of epigenetic mechanisms governing gene expression.”

What do you think about eating meat and milk from cloned animals? Link

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Winner of Nova’s Ghost in Your Genes DVD


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The randomly chosen winner of the newsletter contest is Dr. Natalia Cucu, an assistant professor of genetics at the University of Bucharest. She will be receiving a copy of Nova’s Ghost in Your Genes DVD, just as soon as it’s available on January 14, 2008.

The irony of the timing of this contest is that the newsletter, as some may have noticed, is currently not functioning. It turns out that Zookoda, the service I have used since the beginning to send “broadcasts” of the newsletter to all of our subscribers, has temporarily disabled this feature due to spammers abusing the feature and bogging down their servers. I had hoped that Zookoda would be able to remedy this situation quickly and get it back up and running, but I’m now in the process of exploring other options in order to get the newsletter going as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can still use the same subscription form (in the right sidebar), which will deliver your e-mail address to the list which I can export to whatever avenue I end up choosing for the next installment.

My apologies to all of the subscribers for the downtime.

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Welcome, Graduate Admissions Committees


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The holidays are just about wrapped up, and I can only assume that over the next few weeks the site will be visited by some curious graduate admissions committee members. That is, if I ever get high enough on their spreadsheets to make the cut for further consideration.

I ended up applying to two universities for graduate school, and decided to mention on the applications (against the advice of some) that I was a blogger.  I figured that it supported my claim that I was very interested in the field of epigenetics research, and I was willing to go “above and beyond” what was expected of me in terms of work as an undergraduate.  I also hope that the committees will understand that my professional experience began well before I started my undergraduate coursework here at WSU.

The holidays were great for my wife, stepson and I.  We were invited by my parent-in-laws for a Christmas vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and so we left the sub-freezing temperatures of Eastern Washington to sample the 75 degree Fahrenheit variety of the holiday.  Needless to say, the trip back wasn’t as exciting as the one there.

I am still getting back up to speed on everything, and making all of the usual preparations for the start of spring semester. I hope to do more regular updates on the site concerning what everyone here is interested in, epigenetics.  Until then, hopefully everyone had a great holiday and is ready for a new wave of epigenetics research in 2008.

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