Biology Fun-damentals

Jun 10, 2017

PCR - Photocopying Genes

Posted in:  ·  Introductory

PCR is a common technique used to amplify specific regions of DNA. Put more simply, its a process that allows us to create copies of a piece of DNA. There are two main properties of PCR that we take advantage of - amplification (getting many copies) and isolation (of a single region).

If you understand the basic idea of photocopying, then you can understand PCR.

I should note that the role of PCR has changed over time and I will mostly be focusing on the current use. Additionally, there are several variants based off the standard PCR, including rt/qPCR, but those will be covered in a different post.

Why do a PCR?
Typically PCR is just a step to let us do something else with a gene or region of DNA. It is the first step in gene cloning or for things like gene editing. It can also be used ‘genotype’ an individual for a gene, i.e. figure out which specific copy of a gene someone has.

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Aug 10, 2016

Gene Cloning: vectors, plasmids, ligations, and transformation - oh my!

What is the goal or what is gene cloning?
The goal is to get a single copy of the gene from an animal and into an archive. The rest is just the individual steps necessary to do this.

Step Description Biology Jargon
1     Get a copy of the gene from the animal PCR
2     Put the gene in an archival format Ligation into a plasmid
3     Make backup copies or archive it Bacterial transformation
4     Confirm that the copies match the original    Sequence the insert
5     Retrieve a copy to use Miniprep

What is a vector?
A vector is a small, self contained piece of DNA that can be added to an organism, typically bacteria.

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Aug 09, 2016

Genes, Phenotypes and Traits

Posted in:  ·  Introductory

Genes and Phenotype

Important concepts:

  • Gene
  • Phenotype

We are constantly seeing both news articles as well as scientific publications on new genes - the new gene for intelligence, cancer or happiness. So lets start at the beginning by figuring out what a gene is. Simply, its a way to refer to inherited traits.

There are a wide variety of traits that are controlled by genes. Flower color is a pretty obvious trait, so lets use a flower that comes in both white and red as an example. We call the specific ...

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The basic but complex pieces of biology: DNA, RNA, & Proteins (aka Central Dogma)

Posted in:  ·  Introductory

All of biology functions around the core of DNA, RNA and Proteins or the so called Central Dogma of Molecular Biology. The key here is that you always go in the order of DNARNA→protein. You can’t jump from DNA to protein or visa versa; it just doesn’t happen. However, you don’t have to go all the way. Just because you made RNA doesn’t automatically mean it will be a protein. This is also not necessarily a one-to-one relationship. One RNA can be used to make several copies of the exact same protein.

Why do I care?
Because a gene can be looked at in each step of the DNARNA→protein progression. We look at all the different steps because how a gene is functioning can be regulated or changed at any point. However, in all cases, we are still interested in the gene..

Biological Levels explained through the analogy of a book.

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