BiotecVisions 2011, November

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Editors: Judy Peng /jp; Uta Goebel /ug; Lucie Kalvodova /lk


Contributors: Anja Gaugel /ag; Andrew Moore /am; Andrea Manafov /ama; Ben Normann /bn; Bill Mullen /bm; Danny Asling /da; Frédérique Belliard /fb; Jennifer Zhang /jz; Luaine Bandounas /lb; Meghana Hemphill /mh; Margarida Maia /mm; Sophie Gillanders /sg; Susan Vice /sv; Vera Köster /vk

From the Wiley world

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Are you looking for a job in healthcare, science, technology or business and finance? Then the new Wiley Job Network may be the right choice for you. It is the definitive global job site for professionals, academics, researchers and scientists. You can register and upload your resume/CV for free and let the employers find you. At the same time you can browse the job adverts in your area and create up to five job alerts, so you'll be one of the first to hear about jobs that match your requirements. A shortlist allows you to keep track of jobs that you find interesting.

You can also get great tips and tricks for applications in a career advice section: how to prepare and survive a job interview, resume sent-out strategies and tips on resume writing as well as how to write cover letters that stand out in the crowd.

Find out more on

Be up to date!

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Do you want to know when the new issue of BiotecVisions is published? Remember that all articles from Wiley featured in BiotecVisions are freely available online for the month of its publication.

Use the following link and register for our biotech newsletter:

Getting published

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Writing an introduction

You have suggested a title to your scientific paper and drafted a preliminary abstract, the results section and the materials and methods. Now it is time to bring the motivation behind your study to the fore, and to show how that study fills a gap in scientific knowledge. Bear in mind that the introduction should give a lead-in to the rest of your paper rather than an in-depth survey of the literature. Leave the latter for review articles.

The context

Acquaint the reader with the study field by succinctly describing the background information that served as foundation for your research. How broad you start, will depend on the readership of the journal you are submitting your paper to, i.e., start broad if the readership is from diverse backgrounds; or narrow, if you expect a specialized audience.

The gap

Now that you have stated what is known, you need to state what is still unknown. After all, the gap in the literature was the motivation to your scientific question.

The task

Briefly describe how you addressed your key scientific question. Use verbs that express action, in the active tense, to describe the work you did (e.g., we investigated, we determined).

What the paper is all about

Wrap up your introduction with a brief summary of the content of your paper: your scientific question, the work undertaken, and the main insight of your study. This will entice the reader to continue reading!

Present or past tense?

Write what is known in the present or in the present continuous tense. Whatever means you undertook to address your question, write it in the past.

Paragraphs: One or several?

If you are unsure on where to start a new paragraph, turn your scientific study into a comic strip. Rule of thumb: write one paragraph per individual panel. Before you dust off your drawing skills, however, check the journal's guidelines: some journals require that the introduction be presented as a single block. /mm

Read more about in which order to write your article in this previous issue of BiotecVisions:

Women have stronger immune systems than men

As anyone familiar with the phrase ‘man-flu’ will know, women consider themselves to be the more robust side of the species when it comes to health and illness. Now new research seems to support the idea. “Statistics show that in humans, as with other mammals, females live longer than males and are more able to fight off shock episodes from sepsis, infection or trauma,” says Claude Libert, Ghent University, Belgium. Libert believes this is due to the X-chromosome, which in humans contains 10% of all microRNAs detected so far in the genome. “The roles of many remain unknown, but several X-chromosome-located strands of microRNA have important functions in immunity and cancer.” Dr Libert's team proposes that the biological mechanisms of the X-chromosome have a strong impact on an individual's genes, known as genetic imprinting, which gives an immunological advantage to females. To develop their hypothesis the team produced a detailed map of all described microRNAs that have a role in immune functions and cancer in both human and mouse X-chromosomes. “We believe this immunological advantage is due to the silencing of X-linked genes by these microRNAs,” said Libert. This genetic silencing leaves males at an immunological disadvantage as a male has only one X-chromosome. The Y-chromosome contains fewer genes so if the genes involved in immunity are silenced maternally, the male is left with no compensating genetic information. /bn [1] [2]

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Eco-friendly jeans production

A central step in the processing of blue jeans is the wash and bleach processes used to create a worn or torn look. Thomas Bechthold and co-workers from the University of Innsbruck, Austria, report a chemical surface activation technique followed by cellulase treatment, which offers an alternative to the dangerous, and internationally banned, sandblasting technique. The authors use indigo-dyed fabrics made from regenerated cellulose fibers and treat them with a concentrated NaOH-containing paste followed by incubation with cellulase. Wash-down experiments demonstrate significant and targeted color removal from the activated surface. The described method presents several advantages including maintenance of fabric strength, shortening the duration of the wash-down process and reducing the amount of costly chemicals. /ug [3]

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Water soluble omega-3s

The demand for functional foods and dietary supplements enhanced with omega-3 PUFA is increasing. The hydrophobic nature of the most common forms of PUFA – triacylglycerols and ethyl esters, and to a lesser extent phospholipids – makes the formulation of the functional products challenging, often requiring emulsification or a formation of particles such as liposomes. Borhaug et al. present a procedure for preparing a water soluble omega-3 PUFA concentrate from cod liver oil. The process involves a hydrolysis of the fish oil, urea fractionation to concentrate the PUFA and finally salt formation using meglumine and β-cyclodextrine. The final solution contains about 60 mg PUFA/mL – a concentration useful for food formulations. In addition, the procedure depletes environmental contaminants. /lk [4]

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To find a needle in a haystack, make the haystack 2D

Finding solitary bacteria with desired properties among millions of other cells is like looking for a needle in a haystack. At present, this task is commonly accomplished using one-dimensional flow cytometry that analyzes individual cells in sequence, one at a time. The Chetverin group describes an alternative two-dimensional approach. Using the novel method of merged gels, they prepare a monolayer of immobilized bacterial cells containing up to 100 000 cells per square millimeter. This allows thousands of cells in a microscope field to be analyzed simultaneously, thereby providing for screening rates characteristic for flow cytometry. The image analysis enabled by the 2D format allows cells to be distinguished from each other and from non-cellular particles, such as dust, thereby increasing the reliability of detection. Each cell has a unique address in the monolayer, and can be cloned or monitored in real time during extended time periods, with its growth and functional responses being continuously recorded. /sv [5]

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See the Video Abstract on

Wine characteristics: Wild versus domesticated strains

Humans can taste the difference between wines produced using wine strains and wild strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae as well as its sibling species, Saccharomyces paradoxus. Wine strains produce wine with fruity and floral characteristics, whereas wild strains produced wine with earthy and sulfurous characteristics. This particularity provides further evidence that wine strains have evolved phenotypes that are distinct from their wild ancestors and relevant to their use in wine production. Although most differences in wine quality are attributable to grapes, which differ by variety, location, and year, there is a growing body of evidence that wine quality is also influenced by the yeast, specifically in the production of undesirable sulfur aromas. /fb [6]

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The global potential for agave as a biofuel feedstock

Biomass feedstocks that grow on semiarid lands could be a sustainable answer to the increasing demands for renewable fuels that do not conflict with food and feed production. If high yielding crops that require minimal inputs of water and nutrients can be grown on lands that are marginal for food crops, land use competition could be reduced. Large areas of the tropics and subtropics are too arid or degraded to support food crops, but agave species may be suitable for biofuel production in these regions. We review the potential of agave species as biofuel feedstocks in the context of ecophysiology, agronomy, and land availability for this genus globally. /sg

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Also, don't miss the accompanying podcast interview with Sarah Davis! [7]

GCB Bioenergy podcasts are available on YouTube, the journal homepage and on iTunes! Visit the GCB Bioenergy iTunes channel:

Dairy manure mixing for biogas production

Dairy manure can either be disposed or turned into valuable products by anaerobic digestion: (i) biogas, which can be used as a source for green electricity, heat or fuel; (ii) digested substrate, also called digestate, a fertilizer in agriculture. While many studies have investigated mixing strategies in anaerobic digesters, there is only limited information for mixing in anaerobic digestion of manure. Researchers from the University of Cantabria, Santander, Spain, evaluate the influence of reactor content recirculation rate on biogas production during mesophilic anaerobic digestion of airy manure in a 1.5-m3 pilot digester. The key determinants of biogas production are the hydraulic retention time (HRT) of the substrate and the degree of contact between the incoming substrate and the viable bacterial population. The authors conclude that for long HRTs the degree of mixing has only a minimal effect on biogas production. /ug [8]

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Silk-based tissue engineering support

To engineer complex tissues, cells need to be incorporated into multilayed 3D scaffolds. These should not only be biocompatible, but also match the mechanical and degradation properties of the specific application. Authors from McGill University (Montreal, Canada) developed a three-layered scaffold consisting of an electrospun silk fibroin (SF) mat sandwiched between two dense collagen (DC) layers. The SF layer confers enhanced mechanical properties, while the DC layers create an extracellular matrix-like environment for mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) growth. This easy technique to fabricate multilayered tissue engineering supports can be used for the regeneration of complex tissues, such as skin, or central nervous system dura mater. /ug [9]

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Honey mushroom culture

Armillaria mellea, also called honey mushroom, is an edible mushroom used in traditional Asian medicine. Bioreactive compounds derived from mushrooms, including polysaccharides, display a variety of immunomodulating, antitumor and antioxidant activity. Submerged cultures are efficiently used for polysaccharide production from these mushrooms. Although several studies have focused on optimization of submerged culture conditions, the effects of the aeration rate have not been studied in detail. Optimized production of biomass and exopolysaccharide (EPS) is studied in this article by authors from Taiwan. They evaluate changes of the aeration rate of an A. mellea culture performed in a 5-L stirred-tank bioreactor. EPS produced in the proposed optimal two-stage aeration rate culture is not only produced at a high yield, but also displays a high molecular weight with effective antioxidant properties. /ug [10]

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Profiling armpit bacteria

The activity of human armpit microbiota triggers the formation of body odor. DNA and RNA were isolated from both armpits of 10 preconditioned, healthy males. Pronounced similarities were found between the armpit microbiota in the right and the left axillae of an individual test person, but larger differences existed between different individuals. The majority of peaks in the armpit profiles were assigned to well-known skin bacterial genera. Surprisingly, the relative abundance of sequences affiliated with Peptoniphilus sp. was by far the highest in the rRNA samples of the right armpits. Thus, these bacteria might have been particularly active in the right axillae of the test persons, possibly due to the handedness of the persons, which might cause different environmental conditions in the right axillae. /lb [11]

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Surviving the sun: Repair and bypass of DNA UV lesions

Each cell devotes a large number of proteins to maintain genome stability and repair a wide variety of damaged DNA bases. The first step in repair is to locate lesions and match damaged bases with appropriate repair proteins for restoration. A common feature of damaged bases, including ultraviolet-induced DNA lesions, is reduced local stability of the double helix. At lesion sites, DNA easily bends, unwinds and separates, and returns to a canonical double helix after distortion is impaired. In this paper, Yang et al. hypothesize that DNA-repair proteins use the energy of ATP hydrolysis to facilitate lesion recognition by checking hysteresis of DNA distortion. /jz [12]

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See the Video Abstract on

Special issue: Euro Fed Lipid Highlights 2011

This special issue of the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology covers highlights presented at the 9th Euro Fed Lipid Congress held from September 18–21, 2011, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The topics are diverse and not only of interest for experts on lipid sciences, since nanobiotech, medical application as well as plant breeding and biodiesel are discussed.

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A review by Mouritsen in the area of nano-medicine explains how deeper insights in the physical chemistry of lipids, membranes, and (nano)particles together with interfacial enzymology can be used for a rational design of intelligent drug delivery systems. Lišková et al. report on the cytotoxicity of oleate/β-lactoglobulin complexes with a potential use as anti-tumor agents. The current knowledge of neutral lipid metabolism in yeast is summarized by Athenstaedt and Daum, including the enzymology, lipid droplet formation and function, mobilization and degradation of non-polar lipids. Progress and future challenges in the “omics” era of rapeseed breeding for improving its oil yield and composition is the topic of another article by Abbadi and Leckband. The ‘in situ’ (trans)esterification of commercial algal biomass to produce fatty acid methyl esters for potential use as biodiesel was investigated by Haas and Wagner. In comparison to the contemporary methods, the proposed in situ approach simplifies the processing and reduces the cost of biodiesel from algal biomass. /lk

Nanoparticle skin penetration

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A trio of articles in the latest issue of WIREs Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology concerns transcutaneous delivery of nanoparticles. In a commentary, Associate Editor Nancy Monteiro-Riviere states, “Nanoparticles are increasingly used in consumer products and pharmaceutics, raising a legitimate concern that these particles may be hazardous to human health. Skin is an important route of exposure to chemicals and nanomaterials because it is one of the largest organs and is the primary interface between the body and the environment. The emerging field of nanotechnology suggests that nanoparticles exhibit unique biological behavior while some physical and chemical properties remain the same as for larger particles. The field of nanoparticle skin penetration has been controversial. There are many conflicting reports as to whether or not nanoparticles can traverse the rate-limiting lipid barrier of the stratum corneum into the epidermis and onward into the dermis where that they can be taken up by the capillaries of the superficial papillary dermis to have a systemic effect.” She then discusses two other articles from the issue on that subject. The Foldvari lab from the University of Waterloo has written an Overview entitled “Drug delivery through the skin: molecular simulations of barrier lipids to design more effective noninvasive dermal and transdermal delivery systems for small molecules, biologics, and cosmetics,” and the Chevalier lab from the University of Lyon has written an Advanced Review entitled “Nanoparticles through the skin: managing conflicting results of inorganic and organic particles in cosmetics and pharmaceutics.” Both reviews discuss the biochemical properties of nanoparticles as well as their applications in the biomedical sciences and the current state of toxicology research. /mh [13–15]

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Current Protocols

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Logistics of a microscopy lab

During the past twenty years, interest in light microscopy and imaging techniques has grown in various fields, such as molecular and cellular biology, developmental biology, and neurobiology. In addition, the number of scientific articles and journals using these techniques is rapidly increasing. Nowadays, most research institutions require sophisticated microscopy systems to cover their investigation demands. In general, such instruments are too expensive and complex to be purchased and managed by a single laboratory or research group, so they have to be shared with other groups and supervised by specialized personnel. In this article, researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, present a number of issues and considerations from their own experience that they hope will be helpful when planning or setting up a new facility. /bm [16]

Imaging mitochondrial function

Mitochondria are organelles that have been primarily known as the powerhouse of the cell; however, recent advances in the field have revealed that mitochondria are also involved in many other cellular activities such as lipid modifications, redox balance, calcium balance, and even controlled cell death. These multifunctional organelles are motile and highly dynamic in shapes and forms; the dynamism is brought about by the mitochondria's ability to undergo fission and fusion with each other. In this article, the authors provid protocols for several approaches to imaging mitochondrial shape changes to relate to the variety of cellular functions these organelles have to accomplish. This allows researchers to perform steady-state and time-lapse imaging of mitochondria in live cells by using confocal microscopy, and includes high-resolution three-dimensional imaging, FRAP, and a microirradiation assay, to aid the understanding of mitochondrial structure-function relationship. /bm [17]

Industry news

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Basic research focuses on many issues that are important for human health. Despite permanent scientific progress, only a few innovative drugs actually reach the patient. Oncotyrol, the Center for personalized cancer medicine in Innsbruck, has developed an appropriate strategy in order to improve the rate at which research is implemented. Equitable distribution of intellectual property rights and risk minimization for the companies are the key factors. Read more about how translational research can work. /ag

Social media in science and medicine

To friend or not? This is the status quo in social media. But can this be applied to specific fields such as life sciences and medicine? Read more on the impact of social networks in science. /ag


ELIXIR, Europe's emerging research infrastructure for life-science information: the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and five countries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on September 14, to catalyze the implementation and construction of ELIXIR. The memorandum has been signed by Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and more countries are planning to join in the near future. All European countries are invited to engage with ELIXIR. /ag

Eppendorf Young Investigator Award 2012

Until 15 January 2012, young researchers working in Europe who are not older than 35 years are invited to apply for this award. This highly prestigious prize was first established in 1995. It acknowledges outstanding contributions to biomedical research in Europe based on methods of molecular biology, including novel analytical concepts. Full details on the Eppendorf Award, the selection criteria and past award winners can be found at

Read the latest R&D and business specific news at G.I.T. Laboratory Journal Europe


Basic bioscience laboratory techniques: A pocket guide

Philip Bonner, Alan Hargreaves

ISBN: 978-0-470-74309-6

A portable, pocket-sized guide and reference to everything first year bioscience and biomedical science students need to know. /da

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Fungi: Biology and Applications, 2nd Edition

Kevin Kavanagh

ISBN: 978-0-470-97709-5

Comprehensive treatment of fungi, covering biochemistry, genetics and the medical and economic significance of these organisms at introductory level. /da

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Video abstracts

We are pleased to present you video abstracts from the journals Biotechnology and Bioengineering, as well as Protein Sciences, which are summaries of results of recently published articles. Look at the website below to see the Video Abstracts.

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Biotechnology and Bioengineering

Protein Science


First winner of new Biotechnology Progress award

Congratulations to Gregory Stephanopoulos, W.H. Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, MIT, recipient of the Biotechnology Progress Award for Excellence in Biological Engineering Publication. The award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the literature in biomedical engineering, biological engineering, biotechnology, biochemical engineering and related fields, will be presented at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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The winner will be expected to deliver a webinar on a subject in their area of expertise, or author a related topical or review paper for publication in Biotechnology Progress. /sv

Climate change: A crop protection challenge

Dave Gustafson, a Senior Fellow at Monsanto Company, USA, served as an inaugural member and theme lead for the Monsanto Fellows Climate Change Panel, which reported back to the company on the degree of scientific certainty in global climate modeling. He spoke with Vera Köster from about how climate change is impacting agriculture, how biotechnology is helping farmers and how we can meet the needs of a growing world.

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“There isn't one single technology or a magic bullet to satisfy these demands”, he says. “Our view is that it will take many tools all working together.” /vk [18]

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