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Transgenic Organisms, Cas9 Gene Drives, and Appropriate Safeguards

Posted by Guest Blogger on May 22, 2015 12:58:12 PM

This post was contributed by Kevin Esvelt, a Wyss Technology Development Fellow at the Wyss Institute and Harvard Medical School.

Scientists making transgenic organisms with Cas9 should be aware of the potential hazards of creating “gene drives” capable of spreading through wild populations. Whereas most genomic changes impose a fitness cost and are eliminated by natural selection, gene drives distort inheritance in their favor and consequently can spread even when costly.

If even a single organism carrying a synthetic gene drive were to escape the laboratory, the drive could eventually spread through the entire wild population with unpredictable ecological effects. Because the consequences of such a mistake would necessarily extend far beyond the laboratory and seriously damage public trust in scientists, experiments involving potential gene drives should be conducted with extreme caution.

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Topics: Plasmid Technology, Lab Tips, CRISPR, CRISPR 101

6 Tools & Tips: Online Social Networking for Scientists

Posted by Kendall Morgan on May 19, 2015 8:17:00 AM

 

As Joanne Kamens has pointed out, there’s surely no better place for scientists to meet and mingle with other scientists than at a conference. But in this increasingly wired world, more and more of our day-to-day personal interactions are taking place online. And if findings from network science apply to scientists, then building and maintaining an open social network is key when it comes to career success. In this enterprise, more scientists are finding online tools to be instrumental. At Addgene, we're all about helping develop a scientific community, so here are some tips to help you get more involved with your scientific network online.

As Holly Bik and Miriam Goldstein wrote in their PLoS Biology paper, “In the age of the internet, social media tools offer a powerful way for scientists to boost their professional profile and act as a public voice for science.” In “An Introduction to Social Media For Scientists,” Bik and Goldstein offer many tips on how to take advantage of mainstream social media. The article focuses on some of the popular social media tools available and the potential benefits that can be reaped from using these tools.

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Topics: Scientific Sharing, Science Communication, Networking

Cre-ating New Methods for Site-specific Recombination in Drosophila

Posted by Mary Gearing on May 12, 2015 9:32:10 AM

Cre-lox recombination is an incredibly useful molecular biology tool, but like any biological system, it has certain drawbacks. First, the efficiency of Cre recombination varies for different constructs and cell types. Second, Cre may induce recombination at pseudo- or cryptic loxP sites (estimated to occur at a frequency of 1.2 per megabase in mammals), leading to DNA damage and developmental aberrations. In multiple systems, Cre itself, without the presence of a floxed construct, may produce a phenotype. This problem is especially stark in Drosophila, where expression of Cre from the standard UAS/GAL4 system is toxic to proliferating cells. A Cre-estrogen receptor ligand binding domain-fusion can prevent this toxicity, but with the caveat of partial rather than complete recombination. If you’re looking to use site-specific recombination in Drosophila, read on to learn about new recombinases suitable for this system.

Gerald Rubin’s lab sought to make complex genome modifications in Drosophila using multiple recombinases. To make multiple, precise genome edits, the recombinases used must have high activity and specificity with low cross-reactivity, as well as low toxicity.

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Topics: Plasmid Technology, Cre-lox, Drosophila

Writing Scientific Manuscripts: Literature Searching, Reading, & Organizing

Posted by Guest Blogger on May 5, 2015 11:54:00 AM

This post was contributed by Johnna Roose. This post was originally published on Johnna's New Under The Sun Blog and is part of her larger tutorial series, A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Scientific Manuscripts.

Any scientific manuscript will require numerous other references to scientific literature to substantiate the facts upon which it builds. This means you have to become familiar with a body of literature related to the topic. Finding reliable references and sorting out what they mean is no small task. As a scientist, it is useful to make literature searching and reading a regular part of your routine. Set a goal to read a certain number of papers each week to keep up with the research in your area. When you are in ‘writing-mode’ for a grant or a scientific manuscript, the reading will likely be more intense, but it is a general good practice to keep up with the scientific literature a little bit at a time.

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Topics: Career, Science Communication

Evolution of Brainbow: Using Cre-lox for Multicolor Labeling of Neurons

Posted by Mary Gearing on Apr 24, 2015 10:39:00 AM

CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing may be the hot new way to manipulate gene expression, but other gene manipulation systems remain valuable to biology. Cre-lox recombination, discovered in the 1980s, is one of the most important ways to spatially and temporally control gene expression, especially in in vivo models, and new Cre-lox based technologies are still being developed today. In this post, I will highlight the evolution of the  Brainbow multicolor labeling system - a perfect example of the continued utility of Cre-lox. Check out our previous blog post, Plasmids 101: Cre-lox, if you need a quick primer on how Cre-lox recombination works.

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Topics: Plasmid Technology, Genome Engineering, Fluorescent Proteins

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