Article Category: Odyssey Imaging Systems

Is Research Funding an Issue in Your Lab?

NIH Funding Graph smallerIs research funding a main concern at your institution? In a study of 3700 researchers by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, “68% of respondents do not have the funds to expand their research operations.” Furthermore, “65% of respondents have had difficulties receiving funding.” This is an alarming number for the research community today.

Funding has been on the decline for some time now (see chart below), especially after the 2008 recession and the NIH sequester in 2013. In 2013, the NIH handed out “approximately 640 fewer research project grants compared to FY 2012.”

As budgets are tightened across the board, funding in general may be an issue in your lab. Besides funding to back research projects, faculty and researchers need reliable instrumentation in their labs to ensure reproducible, consistent results.

How will your institution remain equipped in an ever-increasing competitive environment? The LI-COR SURG Program** could help. The SURG – Science Undergraduate Research Grant – Program is designed for faculty researchers and their students to gain access to cutting edge life science technology. If students are learning Western blotting or gel imaging techniques, this grant program could be a perfect fit.

Odyssey Fc smallerLI-COR SURG grants are a 40% match from LI-COR. The process takes ten minutes to apply. We also provide suggestions on how to obtain the other 60% from funding and grant sources.

There’s no guarantee funding will increase in the future. This program could help ensure your research is supported by superior digital imaging technology. Check out the SURG Program** offered by LI-COR Biosciences if you’re interested in learning more. Here’s more information on the Odyssey® Fc Imaging System – LI-COR’s digital imaging solution offered through the SURG program.

** The LI-COR SURG Program is valid in the US and Puerto Rico only.

Possible Cause 10 for Weak Chemiluminescent Western Blot Signals: Diluting Substrates

WesternSure Chemiluminescent Western Blot ReagentsOkay, I know, research budget money is tight and you want to make your reagents stretch as far as possible, but it really not a good idea to dilute your chemiluminescent Western blotting substrate.

Why? It’s because the rate of reaction is determined by the ratio of enzyme to substrate. Diluting substrates will dramatically impact the overall generation of light. Then, you will have to repeat the experiment, and you end up using more substrate anyway!

Optimal Blot Unsatisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Western Blot - Substrate Not Diluted Unsatisfactory Chemiluminescent Western Blot - Substrate Diluted
Conditions:
Substrate SuperSignal® West Dura1 SuperSignal® West Dura1
Substrate NOT diluted. Substrate diluted 1:1 (in water)
Performance LOD – 1.25 µg LOD – 2.5 µg

1Comparable to WesternSure™ PREMIUM Chemiluminescent Substrate

So don’t skimp – use the substrate full strength the first time to ensure that you are seeing all of your protein bands. Or you might just have to repeat the experiment (and that will just cost you more time and money. . .)!

Here are the other nine possible causes of weak chemiluminescent Western blot signals:

Don’t Rush Substrate Incubation Time for Chemiluminescent Western Blots

Substrate Incubation Time is Important!Five minutes can seem like a long time, especially when you are waiting to image your chemiluminescent Western blot. But it is really important that you follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for incubation time. Typically, this is five (5) minutes for optimal photon emission – for both film and digital imaging.

So, set the timer for 5 minutes, grab your iPhone® or iPod® – or the crossword, and relax until the buzzer goes off.

To test this, we imaged a chemiluminescent Western blot immediately after adding the chemiluminescent substrate and then imaged a blot where we waited 5 minutes – answered a few emails, looked at the news, and downloaded a new app – and THEN imaged the Western blot. As you can see, incubating allowed us to see more bands and gave much better Western blotting results.

Optimal Blot Unsatisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Blot - 5 Min Substrate Incubation Unsatisfactory Blot - No Incubation
Conditions:
Substrate SuperSignal® West Pico1 SuperSignal® West Pico1
Incubated for 5 minutes No incubation
Substrate at room temperature Substrate at room temperature
Performance LOD – 2.5 µg LOD – 5 µg

1Comparable to WesternSure™ ULTRA Chemiluminescent Substrate

So slow down, take a breath, and wait for your chemiluminescent Western blot substrate to incubate on your Western blot before imaging.

Here are some other blog posts on possible causes of weak chemiluminescent Western blot signals:

iPhone and iPod are all registered trademarks of Apple Inc.

Chemiluminescent Western Blot Substrate Temperature Affects Signal Strength on Western Blots

The temperature at which a chemiluminescent Western blot substrate is used can affect the strength of the signal that is captured from Western blot images. Really?? Absolutely! This is because enzyme activity is greatly reduced when it is cold. The substrate needs to be equilibrated to room temperature for digital imaging. This is true with film as well, but there may be a period of time after adding substrate and exposing to film during which the substrate has had a chance to equilibrate to room temperature.

In the table below, we show data from an experiment in which we tested the affect of temperature on Western blotting signal. For one blot, SuperSignal® West Pico chemiluminescent substrate was used right out of the refrigerator – cold, 4 °C. For the other blot, the chemiluminescent Western blot substrate was allowed to come to room temperature before digital imaging. As you can see the signal difference is quite large.

Optimal Blot Unsatisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Blot when Substrate is at Room Temperature Unsatisfactory Blot when Substrate is Cold
Conditions:
Substrate SuperSignal® West Pico1 SuperSignal® West Pico1
Substrate at room temperature Substrate cold
Sensitivity Standard Standard
Performance Signal – 1,740 Signal – 200

1Comparable to WesternSure™ ULTRA Chemiluminescent Substrate

So make sure your substrate is at room temperature before using, especially when you are imaging with a digital imager!

Here are some other blog posts on possible causes of weak chemiluminescent Western blot signals:

Imager Sensitivity Settings May Affect Detection of Chemiluminescent Western Blot Signals

Standard and High Sensitivity Settings on the C-DiGit
Standard and High Sensitivity Settings on the C-DiGit
Making sure that the sensitivity setting is optimal to capture the most signal from your chemiluminescent Western blot could be the difference between getting a good, strong signal or getting a signal that you can barely see. This is our possible cause 7 for weak chemiluminescent signals.

How can you avoid possible cause 7 for LI-COR chemiluminescent imagers? On the C-DiGit® Blot Scanner, use High Sensitivity setting (12-min scan) for more sensitive detection. On the Odyssey® Fc Dual-Mode Imaging System, use a longer integration time (up to 10 min). Why is this important? Well, digital imaging with the C-DiGit Blot Scanner or Odyssey Fc Imager will not generally reach a saturation point. Begin with a longer acquisition time to ensure best sensitivity, then optimize to shorter scan times.

In Table 1 below, we tested the performance differences of a Western blot detected with SuperSignal® West Dura on the C-DiGit Blot Scanner when the same blot is imaged on High Sensitivity (12 min scan) versus Standard Sensitivity (6 min scan). As you can see, the longer scan time and higher sensitivity make a big difference in the results.

Table 1 Optimal Blot Satisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Sensitivity Setting on C-DiGit Satisfactory Chemiluminescent Western Blot
Conditions: SuperSignal West Dura1 SuperSignal West Dura
Sensitivity High (12 min) Standard (6 min)
Performance Signal – 12,300 Signal – 5,030

1Comparable to WesternSure™ PREMIUM Chemiluminescent Substrate

So be sure to check your sensitivity settings before you scan!

Related posts:

Annotate Visible Protein Ladders on Chemiluminescent Westerns with the WesternSure™ Pen

Demonstrating the WesternSure PenIf you doing chemiluminescent Western blots, and are imaging either with film or with a digital imager, the WesternSure™ Pen can be a very useful addition to your experimental process. This newest member of the LI-COR WesternSure chemiluminescent reagent line can be used to annotate visible protein ladders prior to chemiluminescent Western blot detection.

The pen is optimized for detection using the C-DiGit® Blot Scanner or the Odyssey® Fc Imaging System, and is suitable for use with film or other imaging systems. The WesternSure Pen is a unique marker that delivers an ink which emits light when incubated with commonly-used chemiluminescent substrates, including WesternSure PREMIUM Chemiluminescent Substrate. The ink is faintly visible for easy identification of marked membranes.

Here are a few tips to get the best performance from your WesternSure Pen:

  • Lightly touching the pen to the membrane should be enough to transfer ink to the membrane.
  • Do not push down on the nib so hard that it creates an uneven surface on the membrane.
  • Membranes may be annotated when damp after transfer, or when dry.
  • Annotated membranes may be stored dry at ambient temperature or 4 ºC for up to 1 week before starting the Western blot detection process.
  • If ink is not flowing smoothly onto a damp membrane, trace over the band until it is annotated to the desired effect.


Data using the WesternSure PenFigure 1. Chemiluminescent detection of visible protein standards. The WesternSure Pen (LI‑COR P/N 926‑91000) was used to mark the blue protein standards (panel A) for chemiluminescent Western blot detection. The blot was exposed to WesternSure PREMIUM chemiluminescent substrate and imaged on Odyssey Fc Imaging System (panel B).

If you would like some tips on how to troubleshoot chemiluminescent Western blots, read Good Westerns Gone Bad – Maximizing Sensitivity on Chemiluminescent Western Blots.

In the US, to order the WesternSure Pen online. For order inquiries outside the US, please contact your local sales office.

Give the Gift of Quantitative Western Blots and Be the Hero in Your Lab this Holiday!

Do you want to be the hero in your lab this holiday season? Watch this video and find out how! (Check out the bloopers at the end of the video!)

Give the gift of quantitative Western blots and your lab will love you for it!

Learn more about:

Happy Holidays from LI-COR! May all your research wishes come true!

Video Infographic: The Fall of Film and Its Effect on Your Western Blots

Watch the video below to see how the past 23 years have contributed to the volatility of the photographic film market, and to show why the availability of film for your Western blots may be at risk.


Solution – Switch to Digital Imaging for Chemiluminescent Western Blots


Solution – Switch to Infrared Detection and Quantitative Western Blots on LI-COR® Odyssey Imagers

Read our previous blog posts to find out the full story behind why the future of film for life science research may be in peril:

The Cost of Film Production May Give Us One Clue Why Film May Not Be Available for Western Blot Imaging in the Future?

Do you know which raw materials are required for producing photographic film? Or, how the changing prices of these goods affect your final cost as a consumer?

The raw materials for film production are some of the world’s most mined natural resources, and thus subject to swinging market prices. Let’s take a closer look at the layers of photographic film and the goods and processes that go into manufacturing the final product. But first, a question:


(See the bottom of this post for the answer. :-))

Here is an example of the layers you find in a typical photographic film – the kind you might use for developing Western blots in your lab.
Composition of Film
The top layer, the layer that reacts to light exposure, is the Photosensitive Emulsion Layer. This layer is dull and tacky, and is produced by dissolving silver bars in nitric acid to produce silver halide grains. These photosensitive grains are then suspended and bound in a gelatin solution made from animal hide and bones.

The middle layer, the Film Base, is smooth and shiny. There are three major types of film bases:

  • Cellulose nitrate,
  • Cellulose acetate, and
  • Polyester.

Cellulose nitrate is not commonly used because it is highly flammable. Acetate film was most commonly used between 1920 and 1970. But, because acetate base tends to deteriorate over time and with the invention of polyester, a move toward a new type of film was made in the 1950s. Polyester film, the type primarily used today, is composed from crude oil, or more specifically, petroleum byproducts.

The final layer is the Anti-Halation Layer. This layer prevents halo artifacts from refracted light and is composed of an opaque, heavy color dye. This layer is washed away during processing to reveal a transparent negative, which, in Western blotting, is the final data image.

Stay tuned for more information on how the prices of silver and crude oil affect the prices of film.

Related posts:

Answer to poll question: Yes, photographic film is composed of everything from petroleum to cellulose from animal byproducts. Did you guess correctly?.

What if Film Was No Longer Available? How Would You Capture Your Western Blot Images?

Photographic FilmFilm has been the dominant technology for capturing images for photographers, medical practitioners, and researchers for more than 250 years. Now it’s no longer the sole option. Digital technologies are beginning to impact the future of film. Here’s how and why:

  1. Digital technology is being widely adopted across many different fields including photography, medicine, and scientific research.
  2. The affordability and supply of film has been threatened with the increase of raw material and production costs.
  3. New rules and regulations have been passed in relation to global preservation and green movements.

Because of this, several prominent companies including Kodak and Fujifilm have reevaluated their business initiatives and made decisions regarding the manufacture of certain film-related products.

Get out of the DarkroomIn addition, many universities and institutions are reconsidering their rules and regulations for the disposal and use of hazardous wastes. In general, policies are being made more stringent and punishments for non-compliance more severe. In fact, many new research and medical buildings are being built without darkrooms or the equipment necessary to process film.

Being aware of how these issues, and others, affect the future of film is essential to being able to continue the same quality, or better quality work than you are producing now. Preparing for the future by considering alternative imaging options is becoming more and more essential—especially when processing film comes with additional expenditures and concerns, and requires protocols that rely on toxic chemicals and large amounts of water.

Our next blog post will show you how the cost of raw materials influences the availability and cost of film.

Related Posts:

  • What is the Future of Film Use for Western Blot Imaging?
  • The History of Film. What Does It Tell Us About The Future of Using Film for Western Blot Imaging?