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Application Stories

MicroRNAs and Early Embryonic Development

miRCURY LNA™ microRNA In Situ Detection Probes

Dr. Parker Antin

1. What is the current research going on in your lab?

Research in our laboratory is focused on understanding the molecular regulation of early developmental processes in vertebrate embryos. We primarily use the chicken embryo as a model organism, and approach research questions from the dual perspective of how individual molecules function and how their functions can be integrated into network models.

2. How did your research lead you to the study of microRNAs?

My lab runs a large scale in situ hybridization database project, funded by the NIH, to determine the expression patterns for all differentially expressed genes in the chicken embryo. In 2005, we got wind of LNA™ technology as a way to detect microRNAs. We contacted Exiqon, as well as other laboratories, and after some testing and initial negotiations, conducted a massive screen (140 unique probes) to detect and localize all chicken embryo microRNAs that were known at the time.

3. What were the key factors for you in choosing a microRNA supplier and partner?

Whether it is a microRNA supplier, or a partner, or both, you want an organization that’s willing to work with you. At the time [we started investigating microRNAs], protocols were still evolving with regards to optimal conditions for in situ hybridization detection of microRNAs. Having a flexible, responsive partner was and is very important to us.

4. What made you choose Exiqon?

Exiqon demonstrated a superior level of both expertise and flexibility, including a desire to help us in our efforts to screen this biological system.

5. What were some specific challenges in your project?

It was a challenge to develop protocols to detect microRNAs in chicken embryos. We were really pushing the field, in terms of detection. It was completely unclear what ISH conditions would work, or if it could even be done in this system. We found surprises at every turn, down to the most detailed level.

6. How did you overcome them?

Mostly elbow grease, and collaboration with Exiqon. The company was very helpful, providing probe sets with different characteristics, and maintaining a high level of responsiveness to our needs. This allowed us to troubleshoot quickly, and reach a solid, successful result.

7. What advice would you give to researchers who want to get started in microRNA research?

The field is growing so quickly, that it can be a little daunting to get into at the moment. I will say that in our experience, Exiqon reagents stand out in front of other platforms from a technological standpoint. It depends on what projects you’re doing, but everyone has shown now that LNA™ technology is superior to any other for the detection of small RNA species.

8. What would you tell a colleague about why they should work with Exiqon?

Number one, Exiqon is the source for LNA™ technology. They have the most expertise. They have worked really hard on product development, and it shows. Exiqon has done a good job establishing and maintaining direct access for researchers to sources of information, through their online technical repository, through one-on-one conversations with product managers and in-house scientists, and through the development of a network of experts for referral questions.  

9. Where will your research be showcased next?

Currently we have a number of papers in submission. I will also be speaking at the 16th Congress of the International Society or Developmental Biology in Edinburgh this September. 

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