Today, many can’t even remember how we lived before all of current technology, but we can maybe remember our eagerness to try them out when they were first introduced. Of course there is a learning curve, but once you become familiar with anything, over time, the new way becomes as easy as the old way was before. In fact, it should get easier, as that’s what change should do.
Scientists are a different breed. We say we are open to change in our day-to-day research, but are we really? Try going into a lab and asking the scientists to try a new reagent out. We estimate 75% would say “Thanks but no thanks, we’re good with what we’re doing.” Why is that? Scientists operate by repetition. We tend to do whatever everyone else does and live by the motto if it’s broke, don’t fix it. During grad school and even while a post-doc, Many can’t be bothered to change things; they just didn’t have the time. However, some learn that changing things can actually save you time and make your life better. Here are three reasons for us scientists to be a bit more open to change in our research lives.
Efficiency. New technology allows for the creation of new products that will let you get what you normally do, just so much faster. Case in point, the PCR machine. How slow would your day be if you couldn’t run a PCR? Now that’s a bit drastic, but it shows the point. New products should make your life easier, save you some time and headache. If this is part of their sales pitch, try it, as a few more hours or even days back in your life is a lot.
Money. Plain and simple, experiments are expensive. Once again, as a graduate student and post-doc, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to this; I would just buy reagents and hope my boss OKed them later. Now, running my own lab, I pay close attention to the cost of reagents and materials and try to teach my lab members to do the same. After all, the funding rates are plummeting, and we need to stretch every dollar we can.
Improvements. The ultimate reason to change to a new product is if it makes your experiments better. For example, if a typical yield of cells in a routine experiment is 30%, and a new product claims it can get that up to 75%, you should try to change. Sure 30% might work, but 75% obviously means you are doing something much better.
So if a new product will save you time and money and improve your output, changing over should be a no-brainer. A lot of new products don’t have all three of these qualities, and that makes it harder. Typically, new products might save you time and increase output but cost more than what you currently do. This might make it hard for you to change, or at least might make it hard for your boss to agree to change.
Growing stem cells costs a lot money, and it’s a daily effort. Cell culture media has to be changed every day for some stem cell types, and even when researchers are doing this, the cells are imperfect, with a lot of room for improvement. Knowing that scientists are hesitant to change, we wanted to fix this problem without drastically changing what scientists normally do. So, what is it we normally do? Every day, we refresh the media and a recombinant protein FGF2. FGF2 is essential for maintaining stem cells, and we found that it is incredibly unstable in culture and is the reason why stem cells tend to drift from their stem cell state. Changing the media every day is expensive, and that expense comes from the FGF2 and the cell culture media alone. One way we could have fixed this problem was to create a small molecule FGF2 mimic that would be more stable. Small molecules tend to be cheaper, and that would have achieved one of our goals, reducing cost. The problem there was that small molecules are very dirty and do not exist in nature. Asking a scientist to switch from protein to small molecule is a big change; we opted not to go this route.
The other option was to keep the protein FGF2, but to mutate it in a way that made it more stable. That would reduce the need to change the media so frequently. However, now we were asking scientist to change from a normal protein to a mutated one. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a major change, and we know as well as anyone that scientists don’t like change. So our solution? …Don’t change anything. Let’s just put the normal protein FGF2 in a formulation that will constantly release it over time. Kind of like a protein IV for cells. When we did this, we found that researchers saved time, saved money, and best of all, the cells they were growing were more stem-like. The trifecta. Best of all, we didn’t really alter anything: scientists still use the same media and protein FGF2, they just use less of it and save money.
There are many people using these StemBeads and enjoying all the benefits. However, there are hundreds who are not, probably either because they are not aware of them or because they are hesitant to change what they normally do. I get it; I’ve been there. But a product that does all of those things comes around once in a while. Give StemBeads a shot; it might significantly change your research world. After all, change is good, especially when it puts more money into your pocket and more time back into your day.
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