Tuesday, April 28, 2009

FREE lab simulations

How about some FREE online laboratory simulations?

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) offers FREE Biointeractive activities at their website, including these virtual labs that may work in your A&P course:

The Cardiology Lab

The focus of this lab is on heritable diseases of the heart. You are cast here as a virtual intern to accompany a doctor examining three different patients. Each patient is examined using more than one diagnostic tool, and at each stage, the doctor will invite you to examine the patient yourself and ask for your opinion.

The Neurophysiology Lab

Record electrical activities of individual neurons while you deliver mechanical stimulus to the attached skin. Inject fluorescent dyes into the neurons to visualize their morphology. Identify the neurons based on the morphology and the response to stimuli, comparing them to previously published results.

The Immunology Lab

Components of the immune system called antibodies are found in the liquid portion of blood and help protect the body from harm. Antibodies can also be used outside the body in a laboratory-based assay to help diagnose disease caused by malfunctions of the immune system or by infections.

This virtual laboratory will demonstrate how such a test, termed an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), is carried out and show some of the key experimental problems that may be encountered.

These labs are also listed along with more FREE ONLINE STUFF at The A&P Professor website.

[Lab descriptions are from the HHMI Virtual Labs web page]

Implantation of an embryo

I recently ran across a cool FREE video showing the implantation of an embryo into the wall of the uterus. The source is not clear on which placental mammal is shown--but really, at this stage it's probably pretty much the same for all of us, eh?

This would be a good video to embed in a PowerPoint slide (or link to it from a slide or lecture outline) when discussing reproduction/development. Click a button at the bottom of the viewer to expand the player, or get the code to link or embed the video into your material.

Here's the video:

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Synthetic blood from stem cells?

British researchers recently announced a project to create O-negative blood synthetically using embryonic stem cell technology. If successful, the synthetic "universal donor" blood will be a more reliably available and more reliably disease-free alternative to fresh blood or banked blood.

An article last month in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reminds readers that last year [December 2008], U.S. researchers produced billions of functioning RBCs from embryonic stem cells--but claims that further research was delayed by government policies regarding stem cell research.

This may be an interesting fact to use use in classroom discussions of
  • blood development from stem cells
  • blood typing and its applications
  • blood banking and distribution, blood transfusions/infusions
  • history of blood and plasma use in emergency medical treatment
  • disappointing history of the quest for synthetic human blood
  • science controversies in general, stem cell issues in particular
  • case studies comparing pros/cons of proposed synthetic blood to
[Be sure to read the A&P Connect article Blood Transfusions . . . available online only to Patton/Thibodeau A&P/7ed readers.]

Click here for my most recent comments on the stem cell research controversy in the classroom.

Want to know more? Here are some resources:
British Scientists 'to create synthetic blood from embryonic stem cells'
Murray Wardrop
The Daily Telegraph 23 Mar 2009
[Brief article summarizing the British research plan and its significance]

Toward the manufacture of red blood cells?
Eric E. Bouhassira
Blood 1 December 2008, Vol. 112, No. 12, pp.4362-4363
[Brief comment on the U.S. blood research effort; includes simple photos]

Biologic properties and enucleation of red blood cells from human embryonic stem cells
Shi-Jiang Lu et al.
Blood 1 December 2008, Vol. 112, No. 12, pp.4362-4363
[Original journal report U.S. blood research effort; includes additional photos; links to FREE full text or PDF]
Click here or on the image above to link to a FREE blood transfusion photo that you can use in your course.

Here's a brief video that explains the perceived need for an transfusion alternatives:

Artificial human chromosomes

Artificial human chromosomes may one day be commonly used to treat diseases with genetic mechanisms as well as a popular preventive measure to impart overall good health.

In Anatomy & Physiology 7th ed. the role of human engineered chromosome (HEC) technology in treating human disease is discussed on p. 1124, in Chapter 34. That chapter reviews genetic mechanisms of human biology. HEC technology involves inserting into human cells a synthetic chromosome that provides the genes needed to produce a variety of normal gene products that may be missing in the patient's native genome.

In an article in the March 2009 issue of Discover Magazine, scientists point out that before such technology can be effective, we need to learn more about how genetic mechanisms work--especially regarding the functions of the centromere.

One of the most striking things to me in this article is the proposition that one day it may become a common practice to insert engineered chromosomes into individuals as a prevention for a whole collection of diseases that have a genetic basis . . . thus acting as a sort of "genetic vaccine." Yikes.

Read all about it:
Evolution by Intelligent Design
Jane Bosveld
Discover Magazine March 2009 (published online 2 February 2009)

[Summary article that includes a really great photo of engineered chromosomes.]

FREE video of HIV's spread

I recently ran across a wonderful FREE video showing an HIV-infected cell spreading the virus to a nearby cell. Through the use of green fluorescent protein (GFP) staining methods, you can easily see the viral particles moving from the infected cell to a previously uninfected cell.

Some of you also teach microbiology or pathophysiology, where this video would be especially useful . . . but our A&P students might take more of an interest in our discussion of immunity and infections.

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why do we need to know about RNA interference?

RNA interference

I was recently asked why our A&P textbook (Anatomy & Physiology 7ed) includes information about RNA interference (RNAi) while most other A&P textbooks do not. Why do students need to know about that?

This question is almost certainly triggered by the questioner's years of experience teaching A&P successfully without mentioning RNAi or its roles in human biology. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Good advice in general, I guess, but this maxim does not apply to the idea that we need to continually update our courses in order to serve our students well.

The recent discovery of RNAi and its functions is one reason it has been slow to enter the commonly taught A&P curriculum. But its important role in human biology is now widely recognized.

So, here are a few (of many) reasons that including RNAi in an A&P course is useful:
  • RNAi plays a role in defending our cells against viruses by stopping viral genetic code from being translated in host cells

  • RNAi likely plays a role in regulating gene activity in a cell by preventing translation of the gene product(s)

  • RNAi is increasingly used as method for "knocking out" a particular gene's effects in research animals in order to study the gene's functions

  • RNAi is being used to treat genetic disease. . . an application that will likely expand greatly over the next few decades

Please see the expanded version of this article at The A&P Professor website for

  • A brief description of RNA interference (RNAi)

  • MORE reasons RNAi is important to A&P students

  • FREE videos and other resources your students can use to learn about RNAi

  • A LIST of chapter and page references to RNAi in Anatomy & Physiology 7ed
    (there is a great diagram of RNAi in the book!)

  • Various links to information about RNAi

The Good Fat

brown fat
Until recently, scientist believed that we lose our brown fat, or "baby fat," by the time we are adults. But recent findings show that brown fat does persist into adulthood, after all. It seems to be most concentrated in the neck and thorax in adults.

Mitochondrion-rich brown fat (brown adipose tissue) is more easily "burned off" than the white fat (white adipose tissue [WAT]) that predominates in adults. Brown tends to become activated when a person is cold, producing heat that tends to restore the setpoint body temperature.

Beyond that, there's good evidence that there may be ways to stimulate the storage of lipids at brown fat rather than white fat in adults . . . meaning that perhaps it could be lost more easily (when active) than if the lipids were stored in white fat.

This new information is useful when discussing tissues, body fat composition, and metabolism in your A&P course.

Want to know more? Check out these resources:
Identification and Importance of Brown Adipose Tissue in Adult Humans
Aaron Cypess, et al.
New England Journal of Medicine Volume 360:1509-1517. Number 15. 9 April 2009
[FREE abstract of the original research article.]

Calorie-Burning Fat? Studies Say You Have It
Gina Kolata
New York Times 8 April 2009
[Nice summary of the new discovery; includes link to very nice graphics.]

No fad diet: 'Good fat' burns more calories
Associated Press story
MSNBC 8 April 2009
[Summary article that discusses the implications of the discovery]

Here is a recent video (with plenty of good animations and medical images) from NBC Nightly News that does a great job of laying out the importance of the discovery.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

New index of topics

If you're reading this article at The A&P Professor blog site, then you've already noticed a new feature to the left sidebar . . . the Topic Index.

This index will make it easier for users to find previous articles and resources of interest.

Topics include subject-matter topics like neuroscience and cardiovascular, as well as other labels such as free stuff and study tips.

If you have any suggestions for new features (or rearranging or eliminating existing features) just let me know!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Using YouTube in A&P

You've seen me use YouTube videos in my blog posts and web pages. Why not use them in your class, too?

There are many FREE YouTube videos that may enhance your discussion of the basics of human anatomy and physiology or application of concepts.

For example, you can simply take a term such as appendicitis and hyperlink it to a specific, related YouTube video that you want your students to visit. Go ahead and click the linked term in the previous sentence to see how it works.

Or you could embed a YouTube video within a webpage or PowerPoint slide:

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer.]

Why use YouTube videos in your A&P course?

Here are just a few ideas:
  • Link to or embed related videos in your learning modules or outlines.

  • Link/embed videos in emails to share timely news stories related to your course topics

  • Embed videos in PowerPoint slides

  • Embed a video in an online test or quiz item

  • Ask students to find videos that relate to course topics as an assignment

  • Offer students (or student groups) the opportunity to produce their own videos related to course content.
I have many more ideas on using YouTube in your A&P course at the Using YouTube page at The A&P Professor website. There, you'll find:
  • An expanded list of ideas for how to incorporate videos into your A&P course

  • More example videos

  • Detailed instructions (including video demonstrations) on how to link or embed videos into your email, web page, or PowerPoint slide

  • Information about using videos from non-YouTube sites
Do you have some favorite YouTube videos to share? Then please "comment" on this article and include links to your favorites! OR share your own video channel on YouTube with us . . . mine is http://www.youtube.com/user/kevintpatton

Human fertility gene found

Here's another little nugget to throw into your lecture on reproduction . . . researchers recently identified a gene that improves fertility in humans.

The CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator) gene in chromosome 7 (q31.2) may have a single amino acid substitution (valine instead of methionine in exon 10) that is correlated with improved fertility among male parents.

You may recall that different mutations of the CFTR gene may instead cause cystic fibrosis (CF) [see Anatomy & Physiology 7ed. p. 119-120, 1118-1119].

This nugget can be used in your A&P class to emphasize the concept that the amino acids assembled during translation from the genetic code have to be in the specific and exact order in order to function properly. Mutations to this gene, for example, can reduce normal function (as in a CF mutation) . . . or they can improve function (as in the fertility-enhancing mutation described here).

This nugget can also be used to explain why it's important to know about amino acids and protein structure . . . and the relationship of the genetic code to this structure. Perhaps it's a good idea to even be able to recognize the names of amino acids like valine and methionine--news such as this will become more and more commonplace as the years go by and this will become common and expected knowledge among health professionals.

Obviously, this new information can color any discussions you have in your course regarding genetic mechanisms in general and genetic mechanisms of disease in particular.

Want to know more? Check this out:
Human Fertility Gene Found
Elie Dolgin
The Scientist 3 April 2009
[Good summary article about the discovery, which was presented on April 2, 2009, and will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.]
[Click the image above for a FREE illustration that you can use in your class.]

Erasing fearful memories

fearful experience for a mouse
Researchers have recently reported that they can selectively erase specific traumatic memories in mice.

Could this be the seed that sprouts an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Could it mean that ALL of our students can be made to fond memories of us and their course as they fill out their evaluations of us?

The original research was published in the journal Science:
Selective Erasure of a Fear Memory
Jin-Hee Han, et al.
Science 13 March 2009:Vol. 323. no. 5920, pp. 1492 - 1496 DOI: 10.1126/science.1164139
[FREE abstract of the full research report.]
Here are a few resources that provide a more student-friendly (and professor-friendly) summary of the research findings and their significance:

Haley Stephenson
ScienceNOW 2009 (312), 1. (12 March 2009)
[Nice summary article that includes a cool image from the original research article.]

Altering Fearful Memories

Science Friday segment first broadcast 13 March 2009
[Interview discussing the results and their implications.]

Erasing traumatic memory possible, researchers say
J. Hall
thestar.com 12 March 2009
[Summary article.]