A common experimental strategy in studying the effects of a specific protein in cells or organisms is to remove it. One can determine the physiological outcomes in the absence of that protein to ascertain its relative importance in maintaining normal functions, or in some cases, to note that it is dispensable or redundant and might have a backup within the cell to take up the slack. Some targeted techniques include RNA interference (RNAi) and CRISPR-based gene editing, and in many cases, it is possible to generate knockout cell lines or even organisms, like mice, that cannot express a specific protein. But when those strategies are not feasible for the experiment at hand, what is one to do?
Open collaboration is important for sustainable science, and every new study or publication, no matter the journal or institution, contributes to a greater understanding of biology, for better or for worse. Dozens of prior discoveries funnel into every new breakthrough, so we need to appreciate the years of painstaking labor and thought that go into every new morsel of knowledge. It is very fulfilling when ABclonal products are part of the fuel that drives these studies in diverse fields of biology. With our ABclonal in Action series, we hope to highlight our products as well as the new insights from our customers all over the globe that will become stepping stones for the next generation of cutting-edge bioscience.
My wife and I used to watch House, M.D. starring Hugh Laurie, in which he was a cranky doctor who happened to be a Holmesian genius in diagnosing rare or mysterious diseases. We are fortunate to have doctors who have much better bedside manner, but as an entertainment option, House was a lot of fun. One of the running gags for fans of the show is that the mystery disease of the week is never lupus, except for the one and only time that it was. My fond memories of this show got me to thinking about how difficult it is to diagnose lupus, and about other autoimmune diseases that still remain mysterious and challenging to treat. I decided to find out how modern medicine is approaching this continuing health issue.
Once upon a time when I was a fledgling science nerd in high school, I started learning about the process of apoptosis, which remains to this day the most studied form of cell death in various functions including organismal development and defense against cancer. As an immunologist-in-training, I also learned about the classical complement pathway that the immune system uses to destroy infected cells, and also necrotic cell death or necroptosis (which is full of really gross pictures if you dare to Google it). Of course, I learned about autophagy in graduate school and really appreciate its utility in normal physiology and disease, while very recently I read about ferroptosis as yet another programmed cell death (PCD) pathway. Right around when the Nobel Prize was awarded to recognize the elucidation of PCD, pyroptosis came about as a novel PCD pathway that is continuing to gain steam in its clinical relevance. It seems logical for cells and organisms to have redundant systems in place to clear away damaged and malignant cells before a health crisis can emerge if the cell evades the primary route of apoptosis.
Before my grandmother passed, she had been battling severe dementia for a very long time, which made it difficult in many ways to have conversations with her. It would take several minutes for her to process who I was, and then it would seem like she would remember me and my family, but she would still have to ask for clarification several times even after we had answered her queries. I am grateful that she is in a better place now, but her challenges in the final years of her life deepened my empathy for people who suffer from dementia, and those who take care of them.
Every now and then when I get hungry, I joke that my stomach is about to digest itself. For the longest time, human science was unaware that our cells could literally eat itself (or more precisely, parts of itself) as well! First described in the 1960s by Christian de Duve (who won the Nobel Prize for discovering the lysosome), the term autophagy derives from Greek words combined to mean “self-eating” and describes a process by which the cell degrades large components and organelles in a distinct mechanism. 1-3 The phenomenon was not studied extensively until the 1990s, when Yoshinori Ohsumi performed a series of groundbreaking experiments to determine the underlying mechanisms of autophagy, an achievement for which he was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Ohsumi’s work has led to an explosion of research that has precipitated a greater understanding of the role played by cellular digestion, degradation, and recycling pathways in human health and disease.