SnapGene is “software for everyday molecular biology” and LabArchives is a digital notebook for everyday research. It just made sense to work together.

With our SnapGene Server integration it’s easy to plan, organize and document molecular biology experiments even if you don’t have SnapGene installed on your computer. We’ll show you what that actually looks like in a second. But first, why does doing better molecular biology research matter?

The development of drugs like Ibuprofen and Aspirin used to receive a big chunk of research funding. Nowadays, those dollars are predominantly being spent at the molecular level. Biologics, like genetic therapy and gene editing, are the fastest growing areas of drug development. Let’s break down their basics…

Molecular Biology

DNA is code. It’s repeated in specific patterns, called genes, which are connected to actions and functions. Genes tell an organism, “Do this.” Your eye color, blood type, hair color – everything is determined by genes.

Molecular biologists study these building blocks of life and can actualy edit genes by cutting, pasting and moving genetic information around. A great example of this? Genetically modified corn.

By adding a resistance gene to commonly grown corn’s genetic code, scientists made it immune to powerful weed killer, Roundup. Corn that’s been genetically modified in this way is unaffected by a Roundup spray. Neighbouring weeds, however, are eliminated.

Lab created insulin, on the other hand, is one of the most important examples of molecular biology in action. Scientists ‘pasted’ the human gene for insulin production into a specific strain of E coli effectively ‘telling’ it to manufacture human insulin. This is then purified and used to treat diabetes. ‘Recombinant DNA’ refers to this intentional cutting and pasting of genes.

These examples are highly simplified cases of biologic work, but you get the gist. Moving DNA around is abstract, requires a high level of precision and can have massive implications. It’s delicate and fascinating work.

Virologists, biochemists, geneticists, life scientists – anyone working with recombinant DNA needs molecular biology software to plan experiments. Enter SnapGene. Their software makes it easy to visualize, simulate and track these investigations.

Visualize and simulate

Before any recombinant DNA work gets under way, you must simulate what you want to happen. Visualising the genes in question is an important early step.

SnapGene can render almost any DNA file type into an aesthetically pleasing and informative ‘map’ like the one below.

A SnapGene map in LabArchives

Even if you don’t have SnapGene downloaded you can use LabArchives SnapGene Server to generate these visualisations. Once you’ve got them, you can start to simulate experiments.

Here’s a quick example: Let’s say you have a glazed donut but want to turn it into a chocolate donut (funny, but bear with us!) SnapGene will generate a map for both donuts which shows all their genetic code. The only difference between the maps is that the second contains an additional gene for chocolate. All the information you need to understand “what” you’re looking at is included on the map.

So how do you cut and paste the chocolate gene? With molecular scissors, of course! Called ‘restriction enzymes’ these reagents know what patterns of genetic code to cut out. In SnapGene you can simulate and record your genetic editing steps. These steps will guide you later on, at the bench when you go to conduct the experiment.

You can save your SnapGene maps directly to your LabArchives notebook. These thumbnails add context to your work and make it convenient to share DNA files with collaborators. You can even use LabArchives search bar to search within DNA files and find what you need fast.

Find DNA files fast with LabArchives search bar (see red boxes).

If you don’t have SnapGene installed, don’t worry. You can still view, share and search DNA files with SnapGene Server in LabArchives.

Add more information to your files

SnapGene can actually add information to your DNA files, too. We’ll use shoes to explain this.

There are many different types of shoes. Heels, sneakers, sandals, loafers..the list goes on. The gene map for a black dress heel will look very different than one for, say, a yellow running sneaker.

If your DNA file is missing attribute information, SnapGene Server will fill in the blanks by scanning sequence databases. This way you know what gene you’re “looking” at every time.

You can search via these genetic attributes, too. Use LabArchives search bar to search for all DNA files containing ‘heel’ or ‘dress’ attributes, for example.

Track

Shoes and donuts aside, gene editing is extremely complicated. As you manipulate files and move genetic code around things can get messy, fast. It’s easy to loose track of what you did.

The good news? SnapGene and LabArchives record every decision, move and change for you. Every action you take in your LabArchives notebook and in your SnapGene files is recorded indefinitely. If you share your files with others, their actions will be documented too.

Bottom line, when it’s easy to see whats going on with your DNA files and to track your experiment’s history you’re less likely to make a mistake and more likely to end up with reproducible data. Simple as that.

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