Molecular Biologist Leading the Way in Bacterium Research with the Azure c400

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Customer Spotlight Imaging Western Blotting

Customer Spotlight: Tam Nguyen, PhD Candidate at Virginia Tech

Microbiome research has grown exponentially in the last decade, and PhD candidate Tam Nguyen is no stranger to the field. After three years as a molecular biologist and biochemist at Virginia Tech, she has rapidly furthered our current understanding of how microbes may interact with colorectal cancers.

Nguyen is a member of the Slade Lab, headed by Associate Professor Dr. Daniel Slade. The lab’s primary focus is to better understand how a commensal oral bacterium may influence the colorectal tumor microenvironment and induce adverse inflammatory responses in the host.

Nguyen and the lab have made great strides in understanding how Fusobacterium nucleatum, an opportunistic oral pathogen that has garnered increasing attention, interacts with colorectal cancer cells. The Slade Lab is one of the few labs with the capacity to make genetic modifications in Fusobacterium nucleatum, making them a great resource to help move the field forward to better expand on the topic of tumor microbiome. Through her years at Virginia Tech, Nguyen has helped uncover how Fusobacterium can establish invasion and long-term survival.

“[We’re] investigating the host-Fusobacterium interactions and their roles in bacterial pathogenesis and altered host responses in colorectal and pancreatic cancers,”

Tam Nguyen

To begin her research, Nguyen cultures F. nucleatum statically in an anaerobic chamber to mimic the living condition of this bacterium since it resides in oxygen-free pockets in the mouth. To focus on bacterial intracellular survival, Nguyen extracts protein lysates from the bacteria once they are at certain growth characteristics, and performs Western blot analysis followed by visualization with the Azure c400 Imaging System.

Nguyen regularly utilizes this approach to understand the differences in protein expression among bacterial strains that have been genetically modified. She grows her bacteria in an anaerobic chamber with the appropriate gas mixture but skips the shaking step in the incubation period due to its non-motile nature.

Tam Nguyen with Azure c300
Nguyen, pictured with Western blot results on the lab's Azure c400 Imager

“We mainly use the instrument for Western blot analysis, which is routinely used in our lab for analyzing protein expression,” confirms Nguyen. “We like the chemiluminescence application because of its practicality, cost-effectiveness, and easy usage.”

Nguyen will be defending her research in a public seminar next month with the help of the publication-worthy analysis from the Azure c400 Imager. She looks forward to how her work may influence future cancer microbiome studies and how the Slade Lab’s work can help close our knowledge gap on understanding disease-centric relationships between biological systems and microbes.

Together, Nguyen and the Slade Lab team will continue to use the Azure c400 Imager in their recent discoveries in an effort to eliminate F. nucleatum to combat disease. Their research helps to develop more effective cancer treatment methods .

For more information on the Slade Lab and Dr. Slade’s research at Virginia Tech, visit their lab’s website.

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North Carolina’s Elite Christmas Tree Industry

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Customer Spotlight Imaging Western Blotting

Customer Spotlight: Adarsha Devihalli, PhD Candidate at North Carolina State

Nestled in the southern region of the Appalachian Mountains is an environmentally beneficial abundance of Fraser fir—the most sought-after Christmas tree in the USA. Thanks to its charming aroma, soft and durable needles, and eye-catching silhouette the tree forms the foundation of a multi-million dollar industry in North Carolina. It is these qualities combined with this unique geography that make North Carolina the second-leading Christmas tree producer in the United States. And while Fraser firs are heavily popular with holiday enthusiasts, they’re also extremely vulnerable to Phytophthora, a common cause of root rot disease.

Several scientists at North Carolina State University are not letting this pathogen get in the way of Christmas tree production. For PhD student Adarsha Devihalli, the solution is in the molecular details.

“My research focuses on studying a particular strain of Phytophthora and its genetic code. My work has initially focused on identification of the pathogen using molecular and morphological tools. However, moving forward I will be using functional genomics tools including cloning techniques. This approach will ultimately enable the identification of genes in the pathogen important for the initiation of the infection process.”

Adarsha Devihalli

Devihalli isn’t the only one working on Phytophthora, either. He is a member of the Christmas Tree Genetics (CTG) Program, headed by Dr. Justin G. A. Whitehill, Assistant Professor and Director of the Christmas Tree Genetics Program at NC State University. Together, Whitehill CTG lab members are working towards the development of novel genomic resources for Fraser fir to combat several pests of these celebrated trees.

Under the guidance of Dr. Whitehill, Devihalli is studying this devastating disease to better understand the issues at hand.

Adarsha and Dr. Whitehill standing next to azure c300
Adarsha and Dr. Whitehill with Azure 400 imaging system in their lab.

How the samples are collected

To begin his experimental process, Devihalli first visits the NC Department of Agriculture’s research station in Ashe County – located approximately four hours away from the university in Raleigh. He looks for disease-related symptoms on Fraser firs, collects samples, and returns to the lab for culturing, identification, and analysis using the Azure 400 Imaging System.

“At that point, is when the Azure 400 Imager comes in. It’s a multi-user instrument…so we don’t have to run different instruments or look for labs that have all the instruments for us. Once I’m sure I’ve identified Phytophthora, I can use the cultures for my downstream experiments.”

Adarsha Devihalli

Looking to the future

Together, the Whitehill CTG lab and Devihalli intend to use their experimental results to help further current knowledge of the Fraser fir genome, and uncover potential genetic resistance mechanisms to Phytophthora root rot.  Ultimately, they plan to develop better mitigation methods for root rot in the country’s most beloved Christmas tree.

“At present, there is no publicly available sequencing information for these species,” explains Devihalli. “We don’t have a genome sequence for Fraser fir, so this is a big goal for our lab [yet].”

 

Learn about the Azure 400 Imager Devihalli uses by emailing us at info@azurebiosystems.com.

 

For more information on Dr. Whitehill’s Christmas tree research at NC State, visit https://research.cnr.ncsu.edu/sites/whitehilllab/