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Week 18 – Life Comes Full Circle

Hope all is going well. The last long weekend of the summer is upon us so our team is looking forward to a little extended down time. That being said, we’ve had to take care of a “few” things before wrapping up. I was feeling a little nostalgic and it stemmed back to one of the experiments I ran. One of the programs we were working on this week as well as many other weeks over the past several years, focused on our Bio-Spun™ Cell Chamber. We are evaluating how this chamber can be implanted into various parts of the body. This requires us to look at drug delivery from the chamber into blood and into tissue surrounding the device. If you recall, our chamber is sort of a “biofactory.” Cells, which can be native to the body or genetically-modified to produce a target drug, are sealed inside our chamber and implanted. The body’s nutrients can go across the wall of the chamber to feed the cells inside while allowing the target therapeutic agent to get out. The goal is to deliver the target agent over a long period of time and to the area in the body that needs it.

Part of the project requires us to isolate some tissue around the chamber and see if there is a target protein around the implant. We then run a test (also known as an assay) called a Lowry Protein Assay to tell us how much total protein came from the chopped-up tissue. The overall gist of how this experiment works is that the more protein you have, the bluer the test solution looks. I remember the first time I ran this assay was in my sophomore year of college many, many years ago (35 years ago to be exact). It is a classic test that relates to many other tests so learning it was an important building block but I wouldn’t learn that until later. I remember completely botching the experiment since I had no experience transferring very small volumes of liquid using a technique called pipetting. Hopefully, you are still with me. I am not trying to go all “science-y” on you. Being new to the field and being from a high school that didn’t have a great science program at the time (to give you an idea, when I graduated, they retired a lot of the equipment to a museum), put me behind so many other students. So much so, my adviser who was also my professor in this class told me that I should think about changing majors. Always a nice boost of confidence. Luckily, I am pretty stubborn as Tina will attest to and I didn’t take his “advice”. Truth be told, I enjoy being told I can’t do something since that tends to fire me up. That definitely has motivated me throughout my science career as well as being a small business owner. But enough about that.

Fast forward to starting the company 19 years ago. The experiments we were running when we got our first government grants required us to use this same Lowry Protein Assay. After our first several years in business, we began to bring on interns during the summer time. To evaluate how much experience the student interns had, the first test we would train them on and have them perform on their own was the Lowry Protein Assay. This assay, which is relatively inexpensive and easy to learn, has been performed by every intern that has come into the laboratory. Some have picked it up quicker than others, sometimes due to more experience, but all have been able to perform it well within a few tries. Some of them have needed to use it for their experiments, including our most recent interns. It always feels good to see them succeed and gain confidence once they master this test. It is ironic that the assay that almost ended my career before it started, I continue to teach to our students. Much different than the experience I had and I always want to make sure they never experience that feeling.

Flash forward to this week. The team needed a Lowry Protein Assay run on some of their samples that they worked hard to isolate. Unlike the scared inexperienced college student that I was so many years ago, a lot of time and experience has turned me into a “seasoned” veteran that looks forward to helping out. So much so, I set some time aside in a week that was absolutely crazy to run it. I can’t explain it, but it was a nice way to spend some time outside of the hustle and bustle of the business part of the company. I also understood the importance of it and wanted to make sure to put my experience to use. Glad to report that all went well and it was great to help out the team. How often are you able to use something you learned in college many times throughout your career? Science is one of those fields that you can learn a test and not use it for many years only to find out that you need it again. As I tell the interns, keeping a good notebook is important since you never know when you will need a test method. This is just one of those times but there are so many examples of this. Always reminds me of why I love what I do.

Please check out our next #FactualFriday on September 9th. We’ll see you back here on September 16th.



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