Tips and Tricks of the Trade

Want to know how to multiply reuse agarose gels? Researchers reveal their best experimental tricks or give advice on how to meet the typical demands of life as a scientist.

Revised Trizol extraction protocol
The guanidinium-thiocyanate-phenolchloroform (GTPC) extraction protocol (also called Trizol-extraction), introduced by Chomczynski and Sacchi in 1987, is applied by many researchers to isolate both nucleic acids and proteins. It is based on the different solubilities of RNA, DNA and protein molecules in water and organic solvents.... more
Guidelines to avoid peptide losses
Many researchers don’t give enough consideration to the material of their tubes and containers they use for handling and storage of peptides. This may have dire consequences. ... more
Fine Tuning Multicloning Sites (06.2011)
Cloning a gene into the multicloning site of an expression vector is so natural to molecular biologists that they waste few thoughts on it. To get optimal expression results, however, they should ponder this isssue more. ... more
Cell phone cytometer (05.2011)
Keeping up with the latest mobile phone is getting harder every month, while it seems that every day brings forth a new cell phone “app” you just have to try out. But how about this for an app: a device that converts a cell phone into a fully functional fluorescent imaging cytometer? ... more
Gene silencing in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (04.2011)
Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an almost perfect model organism. But it lacks one cellular process that is becoming increasingly important: RNAi ... more
Extraction of DNA fragments from gels (03.2011)
Today, the web is a rich source of lab protocols and tips – provided that they are reliable. Here’s an interesting tip on extracting DNA fragments from gels that Lab Times stumbled upon in ... more
Do-it-yourself gel imaging system (02.2011)
In the autumn of 2009, the Gel documentation system used in Gheorge Christol’s lab completely broke down and he was assigned to find a cheap replacement. He had two options: either buy a new commercial system for a few thousand euros or acquire a used one online and hope for the best. He ended up going with a third solution – building a home-made gel documentation system ... more
Streamlined emulsion PCR protocol (01.2011)
Current protocols for emulsion PCR require the addition of diethyl ether and tedious sonifiction and precipitation steps. Jörn Glöklers group has simplified the process to match routine as well as high throughput applications ... more
Ten tips for quantitative immunoblotting of plant proteins (06.2010)
Quantitative immunoblotting is a great tool to quantify plant proteins – as long as you follow the right protocol ... more
Fragmentation of proteins in proteomic research (05.2010)
Cooks use food mills to separate the pulp and juice of fruits from skin and seeds or to cream soups. The same principle, however, also works in proteomic research to fragment proteins ... more
Effective lipofection (04.2010)
Sometimes even slight changes in traditional protocols may have considerable influences on the outcome. One such example is given by Tobias Wimmer, who simply modified the mixing step during lipofection of mammalian cells to significantly enhance the transfection efficiency. ... more
Microdialysis hints from Superprof (03.2010)
Superdoc of the correspondent Lab Times comic is a pretty clever guy, who always knows some trick to help the desperate PhD student. But sometimes even Superdoc needs some help from Superprof ... more
Second-Hand Antibodies (2.2010)
Many researchers are afraid that Western blots don’t work properly with ‘recycled’ antibodies and, therefore, routinely use fresh antibodies for every blot. A recent study however shows, that these concerns are arbitrary. ... more
Cheap and simple dot blot technique (1.2010)
One of the most frustrating moments a researcher may face comes when an established method fails, regardless how hard he tries to get it running. Failing methods, however, are also a great motivation to develop new techniques. ... more
The free alignment programme STRAP (6.2009)
Most Open Source Sequence alignment programmes do not support drag and drop to easily grab selected proteins and shift them to the target desktop application. The free alignment software STRAP is a striking exception to this rule ... more
Coloured agar plates (5.2009)
Colours are used in nature and daily life as fast signals pointing at something without any further lengthy explanations. Just think of red and green traffic lights or biological colour signals. So why not use colours in the lab to distinguish agar plates containing different antibiotics? ... more
HTS-cloning with System-48 (4.2009)
Any steps in high throughput (HTS) cloning of genes and expression of the corresponding proteins are usually done by robots or liquid handling stations. Well, almost any, since there is still a bottleneck at the plating step in HTS-cloning protocols. ... more
Bradford assay reloaded (3.2009)
Challenging common belief is one of the main driving forces in research. One such example is given by Christous Georgiou and his colleagues at the University of Patras, Greece, who wondered whether the previously proposed mechanisms of the Bradford assay makes any sense. ... more
Soft-boiled yeasts (2.2009)
Cell walls of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae are rather hard and thick, whereas the RNA inside the cell is extremely sensitive. Thus, isolating RNA from yeast cells is like cracking open a walnut shell without destroying the nut. ... more
Melting the way to cell colonies (1.2009)
Culturing transformed mammalian cells in large plastic flasks rather then dishes hinders time consuming and frequent media exchanges. But how do you best extract single colonies through a bottle neck? Here's a brilliant but simple solution to that problem. ... more
Coomassie staining without alcohol and acetic acid (6.2008)
Many researchers already leave methanol out of their recipes for Coomassie Blue staining of protein gels. However, Coomassie staining works even without ethanol and acetic acid. ... more
The BaCelLo Predictor (5.2008)
The lab tips and protocols on the Nature Protocols website are usually lengthy and bone dry, only comprehensible by the experts. Recently, however, the Lab Times editor came across a notable exception to the rule. ... more
Cool glove trick keeps your fingers warm (4.2008)
Everyone handling liquid nitrogen is familiar with that horrible feeling if the –196°C cold liquid seeps through to the fingers, freezing them to ice. There are, however, various tricks to avoid frostbitten fingertips. ... more
Control Laboratory Devices with Embedded Systems (3.2008)
Using embedded systems instead of supercharged Windows PCs to control laboratory devices has a lot of advantages. With the advent of powerful and license-free Linux distributions like Ubuntu, the transition from proprietary Windows systems to embedded systems running on open software has never been easier than today. ... more
10 golden rules for creating good scientific websites (2.2008)
The World Wide Web, as we know it today, is indispensable for current scientific research. Every scientist's daily work includes searching the web for the latest literature as well as conducting scientific discourse via email. To make things easier for people visiting the internet, some rules for good web-design practice are important. ... more
REACH (1.2008)
Ever heard of REACH? Most probably not. Well, listen up! REACH, the brand new European-wide legislation framework that regulates the handling of chemicals inside the EU, may also affect "downstream users" in biological labs. Matthias Faix from the poison centre in Bonn, Germany, provides some basic information about REACH. ... more
Fast Lane to Microarray Probes (5.2007)
While some molecular biologists still design their PCR primers by eye, designing probes for microarrays without a computer is almost impossible. Thomas Kern's group at the Research Center Hagenberg and Bernhard Ronacher from the Austrian biotech company Anagnostics Bioanalysis together with Christof Sohn and Gerhard Gebauer from the University of Heidelberg have developed a new free-of-charge online probe design programme called "hybseek". ... more
Homemade Protocol - Instead of DNA-Extraction Kit (3.2007)
It's not always necessary to order the latest kit when planning the extraction of DNA. Eduardao Daniel Souza-Canada has developed a simple protocol for the isolation of genomic DNA from leaves. ... more
Cyber-Protocols (2.2007)
The traditional way to learn science is by practicing it at the bench according to the advice dished out to the Lab-newbie by his mentor. However, in the Internet age it seems that students more frequently prefer to rely on protocols they find on the web. ... more
Post Processing Biological Data with EEGLAB (1.2007)
Photographers usually post-process their photos. By doing this, they often change reality. This is not what a scientist really wants to do. However, some events have singular characteristics so sharpening raw data is necessary and could even reveal new concepts and ideas. ... more