The Department of Clinical Microbiology in the School of Medical Sciences, KNUST has organized a training workshop on Molecular Biology for staff and postgraduate students of the College of Health Sciences. The Leverhulme-Royal Society Africa Award Scheme funded the workshop. The Africa Award Scheme is designed to develop collaborative research projects between scientists based in research institutions in Africa with researchers in the UK.
The Africa Award Scheme is funding an ongoing collaborative research project between Professor David Blackbourn of the University of Surrey (UK) and Dr. Mohamed Mutocheluh of KNUST. The scheme also funds the PhD programme of Mr. Patrick W Narkwa and the MSc course of Mr. Joseph Quagraine.
Reporter Gene Assay Training Workshop
The workshop was specifically designed to teach participants the principles and practice of luciferase gene reporter assays. It was organized by Dr. Mutocheluh’s research team at KNUST and Professor Blackbourn’s research team at University of Surrey and was dubbed “Developing specialised techniques in the laboratory to answer questions on health challenges”.
The Luciferase Gene Reporter technique is used to track or measure the functions of genes hooked to a ‘biological light’ source and carried on plasmid DNA vectors (exogenous DNA or extra chromosomal DNA). Some of these luciferase reporter genes can represent either cancer pathways or disease biomarkers.
During the workshop, students cultured human cells and transfected or implanted the luciferase genes capable of signaling an antiviral pathway (the type I interferon pathway) that had been triggered. A day later the students activated the type I interferon pathway to see if they could measure it with the reporter gene. A few hours later they harvested the cells, processed and measured the luciferase (light) activities in the cells using the dual luciferase assay method.
Other activities included DNA separation by agarose gel electrophoresis, DNA analysis using the NanoDrop spectrophotometer, special pipetting classes and laboratory calculations. The theoretical lecture sessions included research seminars and lectures on flow cytometry, viruses and cancer, the interferon antiviral pathway and general uses of reporter gene assays.
The team from the University of Surrey included Professor David Blackbourn, Dr. Rachel Simmonds and Dr. Adeola Fowotade.
In an exclusive interview, Professor Blackbourn explained that luciferase reporter assays have broad applications across various fields of cell and molecular biology since they help to measure or track expression of targeted cellular pathways. “It is expected that at the end of the workshop, trainees would have the capacity to train other students”, said the professor.
The Africa Award Scheme commenced in September 2012 at a time when the virus research laboratory in the Department of Clinical Microbiology was not functional. Today the laboratory is used for human tissue and virus culture, PCR and other tasks in molecular biology. Researchers from other universities in Ghana use the laboratory and one of the course participants travelled from Cameroon.
The grant has also invested over £30,000 worth of equipment including a gel imaging system, a luminometer and the C-digit blot scanner (the first of its kind in Ghana). It has also funded a biosafety category II laminar flow cabinet worth £8000 that is expected to arrive in KNUST in July 2015.