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Amazing Samples: Fungus - More Than Mushrooms

For thousands of years, humanity has had a… complicated relationship with fungus, though at points half-oblivious. On one hand, many cuisines across the world have made use of edible fungi or fermented food and drink for longer than you might expect – the ancient Sumerians liked beer so much, they honored the miracle of fermentation with the patron goddess Ninkasi almost four thousand years ago. On the other hand, fungi have been known culprits in food spoilage across the ages, and even if germ theory didn’t gain traction until the 19th century, that doesn’t change the fact that we have suffered various types of fungal infections since well before that.

This ambivalence still exists in modern time, but the balance is changing as handling processes have been improved and refined. Even if most fungal samples are still infectious, proper handling can prevent contamination, allowing those fungi to be used in a number of ways, from producing antibiotics to many of the cutting-edge biotechnologies being developed today. Last time in our Amazing Samples blog series, we discussed the value in stool. Today, let’s mull over what fungus provides to modern science.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: GMP Bi..........

Amazing Samples: The Low-down on Stool

I have to say, my favorite piece of furniture (after a good mattress) would definitely be the stool. 

Specifically, my favorite would be the three-legged variety, which traces its roots back to the Dutch in the year 1619, when multiple attempts to take prax--

Wait, what? "Wrong stool"?... Actually, that makes more sense.

As we’ve previously discussed, materials commonly considered as physical waste can often be treasure troves of information. Urine, rich in biomarkers, is usually flushed without a second thought; hair is vacuumed up and thrown away, despite the growing value it’s showing as a research subject.

So it should come as no surprise that there are piles of research regarding the information hidden in feces.

Our previous post in the Amazing Samples blog series took a serious look at miRNA, only recently discovered. This time, let’s pay homage to the time of year, and discuss the scientific value of the butt of so many schoolyard jokes – poop.

Mozart would be proud.

Topic: Amazing Samples, Content: Blog

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

Amazing Samples: New Growth in the Analysis of Hair’s Structure, DNA, and Stress Correlation

Many different cultures have stories related to special qualities of hair, from strength (the biblical story of Samson), to escape (the Germanic tale of Rapunzel), to even divine appeasement (the Inuit legend of Sedna).

Through science, we have begun to realize a different kind of power that is found in hair: information. From longitudinal studies and biomarker research to forensics and archeology, hair is playing an important role in the continually expanding sphere of human knowledge. Our previous post in the Amazing Samples blog series discussed the discoveries made from urine.  For this blog post, let’s brush up on the value of hair.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Amazin..........

Amazing Samples: The "Liquid Gold" of Biobanking

Urine is not sexy—to most people, at least.

The mere word (or any of the myriad synonyms) will generally elicit some level of distaste—it is, after all, a waste product. Sure, most animals use it in some form of communication, generally to mark their territories. One could argue that partially because of this, however, we have developed an aversion to the liquid, and, no longer useful in this way, it clearly must be discarded. The odor and toxicity certainly don't help its case, either.

However, as most people already know (though not all might be ready to admit), this is simply not true.

The amount of information hidden in away in this waste product can be astonishing. Urine contains a wealth of biomarkers, from simple ion counts, to various peptides, to certain viral DNAs. Last time in our Amazing Samples blog series, we discussed antibodies: this time let’s talk about how urine (an unsung hero?) can be a truly Amazing Sample.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Amazin..........

Amazing Samples: Antibodies

Antibodies are one of the most basic yet precise elements of the immune system: each antibody is associated with a specific antigen that fits to it like a key to a lock, and by binding to the antigen it serves to paint a target on the associated cell for other, more aggressive elements of the immune system to attack. Although antibodies were discovered more than a century ago – German immunologist Paul Ehrlich first coined the term Antikörper in an article he published in 1891—their use as therapeutic agents was limited by our lack of immunological methods.

Enter hybridoma technology. By fusing B-cells that produce the desired antibody with myeloma cells, it became possible to create a colony of hybridomas, all producing antibodies with identical antigen-specificity. Since the technology to humanize these monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) was developed in the late 1980’s, followed by chimeric and ‘fully’ human mAbs, many mAb-based therapies have been developed for a broad range of conditions, from viral to cancerous to inflammatory. However, these antibodies are very fragile and sensitive to temperature, and have to be stored and transported in ultra-low temperatures and sometimes down to liquid nitrogen, so we at Fisher BioServices have proudly had many opportunities to assist in the development and distribution of these biologics-based therapies. Last time, we discussed how cancer cells can be turned against themselves – this time, let’s showcase some of the different ways that monoclonal antibodies are truly Amazing Samples.

Topic: GMP Biologics Management, Topic: Amazing Sa..........

Amazing Samples: Tumor Saving Lives

Cancer is one of the more feared afflictions plaguing modern man. Although the symptoms and anatomy of tumors have been known for thousands of years—the name was coined by Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, for the way the blood vessels resembled a crab’s legs—we are only now beginning to understand the molecular mechanisms behind the disease. Who could have imagined that a small mutation could so impair a single cell’s apoptotic machinery,  allowing it to proliferate as ever-growing tissue, and eventually spread and destroy the entire body?

Topic: Cell Therapy Solutions, Topic: Amazing Samp..........

Amazing Samples: From DNA Sequencing to Therapy

Sometimes, large scale research projects make it easy to lose track of the significance of the individual and a single sample. A single biobank freezer can store more than 45,000 vials and the even value of the contents of only one freezer is difficult to fully comprehend. Imagine that worth, magnified by hundreds or thousands of freezers! But it's important to remember the importance of each vial. A single sample, when used in a specific way, can literally save a life - to that person, that sample is all that matters. To that end, we’re kicking off the Amazing Samples series, where each post will discuss examples of how various sample/biosample types (DNA, RNA, stem cells, viruses, etc) contribute towards saving lives and changing the world.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Amazin..........