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Summary of the May 2014 issue of BioTechniques

After a number of years, BioTechniques is getting a face-lift. For the May issue, we will be rolling out a new look for the journal, featuring a redesigned layout, expanded news features and more research articles. From cover to cover, the May issue brings a new look and experience to the readers of BioTechniques, all while continuing to provide those immediately impacting methods and techniques reports that researchers rely on to push their research forward and the journal has been providing for more than 30 years.

For this special redesign launch issue in May, readers will be treated to articles featuring new methods for: (i) studying the biology of the Arf protein, (ii) rapidly constructing AAV-based gene vectors, (iii) simultaneously extracting protein and mRNA from samples with minute numbers of cells, (iv) obtaining human chromosomes in suspension, and (v) constructing sequencing libraries from ancient DNA samples. In addition, May will also include the next installment of our Practical Guide article series, this one focusing on the use of qPCR for understanding the relationship between gene expression and protein turnover.

Arf is tumor suppressor that has been shown to play a role in cancer. Although understanding the biological function of Arf is important, researchers have been challenged by the lack of an appropriate cell system in which to study Arf biology. In the May issue, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center detail the isolation and characterization of mammalian cells that express the Arf promoter and can be used to study Arf biology. The validation of this cell model should enable cancer researchers to more accurately understand the basic biology of Arf and its role in cancer development and progression.

Homologous recombination and genetic engineering are now critical tools for scientists interested in understanding gene regulation and function. Recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene knockout has proven an effective tool for researchers. However, generation of these viral vectors can be time-consuming. In a May article, a team of researchers detail a new set plasmids for the rapid creation of rAAV-based targeting vectors. The approach takes advantage of a golden-gate cloning strategy to speed the cloning steps, resulting in a one-pot reaction scheme able to generate rAAV-based targeting vectors.

There is a growing interest among life scientists to work with samples containing limited number of cells. The challenge though is that small numbers of cells means low starting materials for downstream assays – an issue that is further compounded if one wishes to explore more than one biomolecule (say RNA and protein) from such a sample. In the May issue, a team from Denmark detail a new method for the simultaneous isolation of protein and mRNA from samples that contain only a few cells. Using coated paramagnetic beads in an optimized reaction buffer, the authors were able to isolate mRNA at levels comparable to existing methods, while keeping proteins in a native state for proteomic analyses. This technique will be a welcome addition in labs where researchers are working to connect mRNA and protein levels.

Although isolating biomolecules is obviously a critical component in today’s modern molecular biology lab, we cannot lose sight of the need to effectively isolate larger cellular structures, say for example chromosomes. This is just what researchers from University College in London had in mind when they developed a simple new technique for obtaining purified human chromosomes in suspension. The method, which takes advantage of filters with different sized pores, provides an improvement upon prior chromosome purification techniques.

Next-generation sequencing has been a boom for those researchers studying ancient DNA. But questions of best practice remain. In a letter to the editor slated for May, scientists at the Institut Jacques Monod in France argue the advantages and disadvantages to using single stranded or double stranded DNA in the construction of ancient DNA genomic libraries prior to sequencing. Reports such as this are much needed as more researchers gain access to next-generation sequencing technologies.

Speaking of practical information, May also features the second article from our new Practical Guide article format. Here, the authors review how quantitative PCR approaches, combined with immunoassays, can make it possible to quantitate and study the relationship between gene expression and protein turnover. The authors explore issues of sensitivity and multiplexing, presenting practical tips and observations from their own efforts.

As mentioned above, in the redesigned May issue, we will be expanding some of our previous news features, while saying goodbye to others. The Scientist Profile and Troubleshooting Forum will be moving to an online forum to enhance their impact with additional multimedia elements that fit the content and should expand the utility of these popular columns. Tech News, which will explore the growth and future of chemical biology and screening and the relationship between academic screening facilities and pharmaceutical centers in May, will be expanded – presenting a more in depth look at the fields, technologies and methods moving life science in the months to come. Our Citations and BioSpotlights will also be around, providing additional insights into current methods articles in a concise and engaging format. Look for all this extraordinary content, along with a new, engaging design, starting with this very special May 2014 issue.

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