A new technique in breast cancer treatment recently caught the attention of the Daily Mail—the second best-selling newspaper in the United Kingdom.
The headline read, “Could breast cancer soon be treated with a NIPPLE injection? Technique reduces side effects and is more effective,” referring to the exciting experiment published in JoVE on October 1.
An image of the ductal tree of the mammary gland—highlighted by injecting the gland with dyes using intraductal injection.
Cover illustration by Adam Steinberg. Image taken from www.artforscience.com.
H. Adam Steinberg of ArtforScience.com spends his time dreaming up ways to illustrate scientific research. And while the images themselves are impressive, the real beauty isn’t just in the artwork. It’s in how they are used.
Steinberg’s art has helped scientists visualize their data, present it, and get published for over 20 years. And now, amidst belt-tightening in federal research funding, Steinberg is increasingly finding himself working in another function. More then ever, he is helping scientists to get grants.
According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, over 3 million people in the United States currently suffer from celiac disease, an intestinal inflammatory disease with auto-immune features. The ingestion of gluten triggers immune system responses in the human body, generally causing severe gastrointestinal pain, as well as other long-term problems including malnutrition and fatigue. Although these symptoms and further intestinal damage can be avoided by maintaining a strict gluten-free diet, this can be difficult and present a financial burden. Because of this, many scientists are searching for treatment methods for celiac disease. Significant advances have been made in this field recently, including an intestinal medicine, a vaccine, and a microbial therapeutic approach.
Dr. Eva Schmid, Postdoctoral Fellow at Dr. Daniel Fletcher’s laboratory at the Department of Bioengineering, University of California, Berkeley, presented her work on developing CellScope at the annual ASCB 2012 meeting in San Francisco. CellScope is a rugged hand held microscope that can be mounted on a cell phone, or even an iPad, and uses its optics to generate a high resolution picture. The microscope is designed to generate high resolution images that are capable of disease diagnosis outside of a traditional laboratory. In fact this was the reason for developing CellScope; as a tool for disease diagnosis in developing countries.
The CellScope Microscope in Action
However, a serendipitous meeting with Saber Khan, a middle school teacher at Friends School in San Francisco, evolved this into a fun and an exciting teaching tool for school kids. The middle school students got engaged in completing a Micro-Macro project where they took macroscopic and microscopic pictures of objects around their homes and neighborhood like leavers, petals, pets, pet- hair, etc. “The response of the students was phenomenal,” says Mr. Saber Khan. The students also realize that this fun learning tool has the ability to be used as a real diagnostic instrument capable of impacting global health.
Who knew, a cell phone would become a teacher’s friend.
Another application is, of course, using this very portable device for research in the field. University of Hawaii researchers have used CellScope to monitor plankton diversity. CellScope has also been used to monitor coral reefs for coral bleaching. At the end of the day, it’s just really cool and a regular old microscope just won’t do under the Christmas tree anymore. I wish I had a CellScope to bring on my next wilderness hike.
Sleeping Flies and Feeding Slugs
Welcome to your weekly update on some of the latest cutting edge articles from JoVE! Last week we told you about home-made 3D Printers and mice grown from stem cells. This week, two of our most innovative articles come from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and Case Western Reserve University.
Do sleeping flies have better immune response?
Drosophila being put to sleep ahead of assay
As anyone who has ever been sick knows, a lot of sleep is an important part of the healing process. It is no surprise that sleep helps our mammalian cousins heal, but who would have thought that sleep is also an integral part of the fly immune system? In order to better understand how sleep helps flies heal, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine have developed a technique to quantitatively measure the immune response of genetically modified Drosophila melanogaster. Using this assay, scientists can use phenotypically distinct flies to understand which aspect of sleep is most valuable to the immune system.
The full title of the article is “Quantitative Measurement of the Immune Response and Sleep in Drosophila” and can be found here.
Time to feed the Sea Slugs
An Aplysia buccal mass biting
Aplysia californica, or the California Sea Slug, have been a valuable animal in the laboratory since Eric Kandel won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research using Aplysia neurons to understand the physiological basis of memory. Because of their characteristically large neurons, which are up to 1 mm in width, Aplysia are valuable for neuroscientists interested in a wide range of mechanisms. In this study, scientists at Case Western Reserve University remove the slug’s feeding organ, the buccal mass, from the animal to study how neural input allows this organ to have multiple functions for the animal: biting, swallowing and rejection of food. This allows scientists to record neural activity in these organs clearly while the organs form naturally occurring movements.
The article, titled “An In Vitro Preparation for Eliciting and Recording Feeding Motor Programs with Physiological Movements in Aplysia californica” can be found here.
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When Alexander Fleming discovered the first naturally occurring antibiotic, penicillin, in 1928 he changed the world of medicine, and because of this discovery he earned the 1945 Nobel Prize in Medicine alongside Ernst Chain and Howard Florey. Penicillin’s development allowed patients to be cured of deadly diseases like syphilis, or those caused by staphylococci or streptococci. Due to this discovery, over the last century, our society’s lifespan has increased and the world’s population has exploded.
Bacteria as seen in a microscope. Taken from Jove article found below
Unfortunately, many species of bacteria are now evolving to be antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” Fighting superbugs requires unconventional treatments, which would cost the worlds’ government’s billions of dollars in additional healthcare expenses. To make matters worse, any methods we currently have to kill superbugs often have painful side effects such as vomiting or organ damage.
Luckily, researchers are working on ways to get around antibiotic-resistance. Dr. Qi Zhou, an academic researcher in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney, is working on a technique to deliver nano-sized antibiotics via an inhaler to target respiratory superbugs. According to this press release, upper and lower respiratory tract infections caused by superbugs cost the Australian taxpayers over $150 million and accounts for nearly seven million doctor visits per year. This effectively allows antibiotics to be delivered directly to the infected site. This reduces potential side-effects such as damaging other organs. “These new inhaled nanomedicines will target the antibiotics directly at the respiratory tract” Dr. Zhou’s colleague Professor Hak-Kim Chan says. “The new inhaled nanoantibiotic therapy will be pivotal in the fight to reduce drug resistance and adverse effects for combating respiratory superbugs.”
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Image source can be found here.
With so many great video-articles coming out in JoVE each week, it’s hard to make sure you catch all of the interesting science. This week, two of our most innovative articles come from MIT and The Scripps Research Institute. Check them out:
3D Printing from a Digital Projector?
3D structure produced with MIT's home-made 3D printer.
In an article published on November 27, mechanical engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology demonstrate how to make a 3D printer from a commercially available digital projector. Using a few external mirrors and lenses, the engineers project each layer of the structure they are fabricating into a pool of photosensitive resin, which polymerizes into the desired shape. The process is known as projection micro-stereolithography, and is being used to study buckling mechanisms commonly found in nature.
The full title of the article is “Micro 3D Printing Using a Digital Projector and its Application in the Study of Soft Materials Mechanics” and can be found here.
Life from stem cells?
Stem cells have been in the news lately, particularly as The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for their work in stem cells. These Nobel Prize Winners discovered techniques to produce induced pluripotent stem cells from adult cells. This is a significant breakthrough for researchers as stem cells are hard to study in adults or come from embryos, where collection of stem cells have political and ethical implications. In this JoVE article, researchers at The Scripps Research Institute demonstrate how to produce mice from induced pluripotent stem cells, a valuable demonstration of the viability of stem cells to grow into any necessary tissue.
The article, titled “Generation of Mice from Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells,” will be published on November 29, 2012 and can be found here.
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Think back to the last time you had to work in a group. Maybe it was in high school, maybe college, more than likely, it was last week in your staff meeting. Do you remember how difficult it was (and is!) to get anything done when someone in the group either didn’t seem to be speaking the same language, had a different set of priorities or just couldn’t communicate what they were thinking? This is a problem that persists beyond human interaction and into technological spheres. Everyday, bioengineers and computer scientists deal with communication issues when attempting to interface two opposing programs or materials. They must ask how two materials interface and communicate in such a way that a desired step is taken. For the bioengineer, the more specific question is: how can we make electronics and biological materials combine and work together? A JoVE article, “Bridging the Bio-Electronic Interface with Biofabrication”, published on June 6th, 2012 shows one such way, via a biological microelectrochemical system (bioMEMS).
In research funded by the U.S. Government’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), University of Maryland faculty Dr. Gregory Payne and Dr. William Bentley describe their method for bridging the gap between electronics and biological components in JoVE. Their biofabrication technique uses electrodeposition to attach bio-compatible polymer films to electrodes. The polymer films act as an intermediate between the electrodes and biological materials, which is step one in creating a productive interface between man and machine. The films are then functionalized with biological components by covalently bonding proteins or whole cells to the primary amine groups of the polymer films.
See the Video and read more here