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Kendall Morgan

Kendall is a science writer based in North Carolina. She has a PhD in Biology from the University of Oregon and a certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She writes about science, medicine and science culture and is dedicated to making it easier for scientists to share what they make and do with each other and the world.

Recent Posts

Adenoviral Delivery of CRISPR/Cas9 Aims to Expand Genome Editing to Primary Cells

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Sep 30, 2014 4:50:49 PM

Researchers have shown that it is possible to deliver RNA-guided CRISPR/Cas9 nuclease complexes  using adenoviral vectors (AdVs), to a wide range of human cells, including mesenchymal stem cells, and in a rather straightforward manner. These adenoviral CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing tools developed and demonstrated by Manuel Gonçalves and his colleagues at Leiden University Medical Center are now available at Addgene along with a description of their experimental protocol. The three plasmids which have been deposited to Addgene are: pAdSh.PGK.Cas9, pAdSh.U6.gRNAS1, pAdSh.U6.gRNAGFP.

“Although AdVs are being deployed for delivering zinc-finger nucleases into human cells, we think they are still underused in the emerging field of genome editing,” Gonçalves said. “In contrast, AdVs are extensively being explored for genetic vaccination and oncolytic approaches. In genome editing, they are not used much, but we do think they have a very bright future.”

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Topics: Genome Engineering, CRISPR

SpyLigase Irreversibly Locks Peptides Together for Efficient Cell Capture

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Aug 13, 2014 11:49:04 AM

Mark Howarth’s lab at the University of Oxford is dedicated to generating new tools to manipulate biology based on molecular features found in nature, with the ultimate goal to improve the diagnosis of disease, and cancer in particular. They recently introduced the SpyTag/SpyCatcher system, based on a protein isolated from Streptococcus pyogenes that locks itself together, to produce irreversible protein-peptide interactions. In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March, he and his colleagues took another important step forward by dissecting that S. pyogenes protein into three parts. Their efforts yielded a protein, which they call SpyLigase (Spy comes from the “S” in Streptococcus and the “py” in pyogenes), capable of locking two peptide tags together.

SpyLigase overcomes limitations in the use of peptide tags, which often form only weak and reversible bonds. Howarth’s team has already demonstrated in their PNAS paper that SpyLigase can be used to link affibodies or antibodies against common tumor markers to subsequently capture cancerous cells expressing low levels of tumor antigen. I asked Howarth to tell us more about SpyLigase, its development, and its potential uses.

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Topics: Hot Plasmids, Interview

The Michael Davidson Collection: One-Stop Shop for Fluorescent Proteins

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Jul 29, 2014 2:16:00 PM

In the world of fluorescent proteins and their use for imaging cell biology, Michael Davidson’s lab at Florida State University has been the go-to place. In 2012, his National High Magnetic Field Lab worked with an impressive 1,350 scientists from more than 275 institutions all over the world. In the course of all those collaborations over the years, he and his colleagues built a Molecular Expressions collection including some 3,300 plasmids along with image galleries and educational resources to go with them. This collection of plasmids is available in an easily searchable format on Addgene’s Michael Davidson Fluorescent Protein Collection webpage. (Check back regularly as new plasmids are being added to the webpage every week.)

Over 300 Backbones in a Rainbow of Colors

“It’s a great collection with over 300 backbones alone,” said Addgene’s Lianna Swanson, who has been working with members of the Davidson lab to coordinate the impressively big deposit. “He has every fluorescent protein under the sun, from the standard oldies but goodies (e.g., EGFP and YFP) to the new and improved fruit colors (e.g., apple, papaya, and tomato) and the photoactivatable fluors (e.g. Phamret and Dendra). It’s just such a great collection with such variety.”

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Topics: Hot Plasmids, Fluorescent Proteins

Designer PUF Proteins for Any RNA Target

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Jun 17, 2014 3:57:00 PM

With the meteoric rise of CRISPR technology, the ability to direct enzymes – from nucleases to transcription factors – to specific sequences of DNA has become commonplace. This ability has opened up a world of possibilities in the engineering of complex gene networks. A comparable system for targeting specific sequences of RNA is highly desirable for extending the complexity of genetic circuits, allowing for tighter spatio-temporal control of gene expression within a cell. Thanks to the work of Huimin Zhao and colleagues, we now have just the tool…designer PUF proteins!

A newly available PUF Assembly Kit makes it possible to devise RNA binding proteins to hit any target of interest. The new tool was developed and implemented by applying the Golden Gate cloning method to human proteins known as Pumilio/fem-3 mRNA binding factors (PUF). In a single step, researchers can now assemble designer PUF domains for RNA specificity engineering.

“The RNA binding domain is interesting because by changing certain amino acids you can change the specificity,” explained Zhanar Abil of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Topics: Plasmid Technology, Synthetic Biology, Plasmid Kits

Interview: Nicola Patron on Plant Synthetic Biology, MoClo, and More

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Jun 12, 2014 11:30:00 AM

Nicola Patron is Head of Synthetic Biology at the Sainsbury Laboratory, where she often feels more like an engineer than a biologist. Their focus at the lab is on plant-pathogen interactions, and her aim is to produce constructs and edit genomes so as to make plants, and agricultural crops in particular, resistant to disease. They also devise biosensors designed to elucidate the molecular interactions that go on between plants and their pathogens.

As Patron explains it, her work has always been focused on gene transfer, from transgenes to plants, chloroplast to the nucleus, or pathogens to their hosts. I spoke with her about what motivates her research, the MoClo Kit she and Sylvestre Marillonnet share with the scientific community via Addgene, the struggles of plant scientists and how they work to overcome them, and why she spends some of her time engaging with others on Twitter, among other things.

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Topics: Plasmid Technology, Scientific Sharing, Synthetic Biology, Plant Biology, Plasmid Kits

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