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CRISPR-Cas9 is Revolutionizing Gene Editing

CRISPR-Cas is a gene editing technology that is revolutionizing the biotech industry. In 2012, two researchers were performing basic research when they inadvertently discovered a gene editing technology that forever changes how scientists edit genes.

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna were trying to gain a better understanding of the system that bacteria use to defend themselves against viruses. The researchers noticed that bacterial systems could slice out specific sections of DNA with incredible precision. The team then realized that, with the correct programming, the system could also replace a specific section with new DNA – in essence, the bacteria were performing gene editing on their own DNA in a better way than scientists were doing it in the laboratories.

Topic: Laboratory Processing, Topic: Cell Therapy ..........

Avoiding Hemolysis in Blood Sample Collection and Processing

Depending on your point of view, red blood cells, or erythrocytes, are throwaways and a nuisance, ruining a good blood specimen if the cells burst and contaminate the sample. On the other hand, erythrocytes have significant value in specific types of research, and if your objective is biobanking these cells in an intact state, then hemolysis and the need for a re-draw is equally as much to be avoided.

Erythrocyte cell membranes rupture easily, releasing hemoglobin and flooding the sample with potassium and other internal components. Fortunately, breakage of erythrocytes is easy to detect, as the hemoglobin turns the serum or plasma sample from pink to red, depending on the number of cells that have lysed.

Hemolysis is a primary driver of the need for re-draw, resulting in wasted time and resources. How can hemolysis be prevented?

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Labora..........

A New Class of Immunotherapeutics: Using Oncolytic Viruses to Treat Cancer

Scientists have noted the ability of viruses to kill tumor cells for almost a century but have been unable to document the therapeutic use of these viruses in patients with cancer. Interest in this approach is growing, supported by advancing knowledge of viral biology, molecular genetics and tumor immunology. Oncolytic virus immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses viruses to replicate within cancer cells.

In this blog, we’ll briefly explore how viruses, specifically oncolytic viruses, are being used to treat cancer.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Cell T..........

Is “Controlling Pre-analytical Variability” an Elusive Target in Biobanking Urine Samples?

The wealth of information in urine samples makes this material critical for research, and for biobanking. The value of this humble waste product is evident from the fact that it is the third most-tested sample in diagnostic laboratories, after serum/plasma profiles and complete blood cell (CBC) counts. However, researchers collecting urine samples for storage and downstream analysis face the same issues as diagnostic laboratories—determining how reliable a test result can be, given the difficulty in controlling  pre-analytical variability.

Topic: Laboratory Processing, Topic: Clinical Tria..........

Two and a Half Degrees of Separation: Clinical Trial Finds Moderate Cooling Improves Transplant Results

This is not about a chain of six acquaintances that (in theory) connect all the inhabitants of the world, but rather how a very small reduction in temperature can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of an organ transplant. A recently published clinical trial1 found that establishing mild hypothermia in an organ donor resulted in a significant benefit to recipients of transplanted kidneys! So here is a question to consider: if 2.5°C has a significant effect on outcomes in living patients, what effect may it have on biospecimen-based research?

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Clinic..........

Researchers Learn How to Turn Cancer Cells into Macrophages

Sometimes we set out in search of one thing, and end up finding something entirely different. This was the case for a group of Stanford scientists who were looking for ways to prevent cancer cells from dying during experiments, but then discovered that it is possible to force leukemia cells to mature into macrophages.

Published in the March 2015 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this discovery came as a chance observation in a Stanford University of Medicine laboratory.

Topic: Laboratory Processing, Topic: Cell Therapy ..........

Whole Blood Basics: How to maintain a stable sample

Like any other fluid or tissue sample, whole blood can be most effectively analyzed when its integrity is maintained throughout collection, processing and storage. But how do you maintain the quality of a whole blood sample when considering long term storage? What happens when a sample is not handled properly?

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Labora..........

Amazing Samples: microRNA


As early as 1939, RNA molecules were thought to be involved in the synthesis of cellular proteins, which was well after Friedrich Miescher discovered nucleic acids (1868).  However, it was not until 1956 that Alex Rich and David Davies produced an RNA crystal whose structure was identified and analyzed using X-Ray crystallography. Out of all of the various classes of RNA, though, microRNA (miRNA) was only barely discovered a couple of decades ago, and its effects and applications are still being researched. In our previous Amazing Samples blog post, we discussed some of the ways hair is being coiffed for research. For this post, let’s discuss what makes miRNA an Amazing Sample.

Topic: Amazing Samples, Content: Blog

BRISQ or Risk: Publication of Your Research

BioRepository_-_Data-Cryo_CartThe quality of biomedical research has been under intense discussion recently. The American Association for the Advancement of Science1, the National Institutes of Health2, and others, including publishers of top peer-reviewed journals, have all held meetings or posted public concerns in some form. Of primary concern is the irreproducibility of research results, and lack of sharing of source data, including the lack of reporting of pre-analytical variables in the handling of biospecimens.

As recently as this week (February 11), Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), weighed in on the topic of analytical variation and experimental reproducibility following his presentation at the  Lab Automation Symposium in Washington, DC.  He identified a number of problems, including confounding of data generated by researchers when working with cell lines, as approximately 30 percent of cell lines are not what they are purported to be.  Before closing, Dr. Collins reiterated that the NIH is fully committed to developing the necessary measures to ensure that appropriate checks and balances are implemented to significantly reduce pre-analytical/analytical variability.

Are you incorporating BRISQ (Biospecimen Reporting for Improved Study Quality)3, or another algorithm for reporting pre-analytical specimen handling, into your sample and data collection process?

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Content: Blog

Extracting DNA and RNA from FFPE tissue blocks—Can we get there from here?

tissue_sectioningThere is a wide range of pre-analytical factors affecting the uniformity of formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) samples as potential sources of DNA and RNA.  Given these factors, we must ask ourselves, are FFPE samples reliable enough to advance progress toward precision medicine and the development of regenerative therapies?

FFPE tissue samples are widely available and offer, in addition to classic morphological study of tissues, the ability to harvest DNA, RNA and Proteins. Even more importantly, FFPE are accompanied by clinical data and their usefulness is further enhanced by still another factor—room temperature storage.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Content: Blog

Emerging Trends in Biosample-based Research: Mobile Technologies, Citizen Science, and Crowd-Sourcing Studies

The cost of conducting large cohort studies has become prohibitive, yet cohort studies are critical for research into biomarkers, diagnostics, and new therapeutics. Is the technology to collect the data needed for this research already available, but we simply haven’t developed a process to put it to use?

Mobile technology has already had a great influence on data collection and analysis in such fields as astronomy, climate, history, and archaeology, as well as biology—WildLab, and Project Noah all use iPhone apps to track wildlife and related phenomena. Closer to home, “citizen scientists,” empowered by “crowdsourcing” (web-based recruitment), health data sharing platforms, and mobile technology, are already changing medical research. (Cloud-based cohort study design pioneer Dr. James Lacey has also recently publish an eBook on this topic on our blog). 

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Labora..........

A Breakthrough in Collecting Blood for Biobanks?

hiSPC biobankingAnything that potentially lowers the cost of biobanking and the development of cell-based therapies is worth a look, and a recent issue of Stem Cell Translational Medicine definitely caught my attention: a group of researchers in Singapore reported the successful reprogramming of finger-tip capillary blood cells into human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), using a minute amount of blood collected by a finger-prick. This could dramatically change the economics of biobanking.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Content: Blog