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Gender differences and effect of air pollution on asthma in children with and without allergic predisposition: northeast Chinese children health study.
PUBLISHED: 05-09-2011
Males and females exhibit different health responses to air pollution, but little is known about how exposure to air pollution affects juvenile respiratory health after analysis stratified by allergic predisposition. The aim of the present study was to assess the relationship between air pollutants and asthmatic symptoms in Chinese children selected from multiple sites in a heavily industrialized province of China, and investigate whether allergic predisposition modifies this relationship.
Authors: Patrick De Boever, Tijs Louwies, Eline Provost, Luc Int Panis, Tim S. Nawrot.
Published: 10-22-2014
The microcirculation consists of blood vessels with diameters less than 150 µm. It makes up a large part of the circulatory system and plays an important role in maintaining cardiovascular health. The retina is a tissue that lines the interior of the eye and it is the only tissue that allows for a non-invasive analysis of the microvasculature. Nowadays, high-quality fundus images can be acquired using digital cameras. Retinal images can be collected in 5 min or less, even without dilatation of the pupils. This unobtrusive and fast procedure for visualizing the microcirculation is attractive to apply in epidemiological studies and to monitor cardiovascular health from early age up to old age. Systemic diseases that affect the circulation can result in progressive morphological changes in the retinal vasculature. For example, changes in the vessel calibers of retinal arteries and veins have been associated with hypertension, atherosclerosis, and increased risk of stroke and myocardial infarction. The vessel widths are derived using image analysis software and the width of the six largest arteries and veins are summarized in the Central Retinal Arteriolar Equivalent (CRAE) and the Central Retinal Venular Equivalent (CRVE). The latter features have been shown useful to study the impact of modifiable lifestyle and environmental cardiovascular disease risk factors. The procedures to acquire fundus images and the analysis steps to obtain CRAE and CRVE are described. Coefficients of variation of repeated measures of CRAE and CRVE are less than 2% and within-rater reliability is very high. Using a panel study, the rapid response of the retinal vessel calibers to short-term changes in particulate air pollution, a known risk factor for cardiovascular mortality and morbidity, is reported. In conclusion, retinal imaging is proposed as a convenient and instrumental tool for epidemiological studies to study microvascular responses to cardiovascular disease risk factors.
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Determining Soil-transmitted Helminth Infection Status and Physical Fitness of School-aged Children
Authors: Peiling Yap, Thomas Fürst, Ivan Müller, Susi Kriemler, Jürg Utzinger, Peter Steinmann.
Institutions: Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.
Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections are common. Indeed, more than 1 billion people are affected, mainly in the developing world where poverty prevails and hygiene behavior, water supply, and sanitation are often deficient1,2. Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, and the two hookworm species, Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus, are the most prevalent STHs3. The estimated global burden due to hookworm disease, ascariasis, and trichuriasis is 22.1, 10.5, and 6.4 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), respectively4. Furthermore, an estimated 30-100 million people are infected with Strongyloides stercoralis, the most neglected STH species of global significance which arguably also causes a considerable public health impact5,6. Multiple-species infections (i.e., different STHs harbored in a single individual) are common, and infections have been linked to lowered productivity and thus economic outlook of developing countries1,3. For the diagnosis of common STHs, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the Kato-Katz technique7,8, which is a relatively straightforward method for determining the prevalence and intensity of such infections. It facilitates the detection of parasite eggs that infected subjects pass in their feces. With regard to the diagnosis of S.stercoralis, there is currently no simple and accurate tool available. The Baermann technique is the most widely employed method for its diagnosis. The principle behind the Baermann technique is that active S.stercoralis larvae migrate out of an illuminated fresh fecal sample as the larvae are phototactic9. It requires less sophisticated laboratory materials and is less time consuming than culture and immunological methods5. Morbidities associated with STH infections range from acute but common symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and pruritus, to chronic symptoms, such as anemia, under- and malnutrition, and cognitive impairment10. Since the symptoms are generally unspecific and subtle, they often go unnoticed, are considered a normal condition by affected individuals, or are treated as symptoms of other diseases that might be more common in a given setting. Hence, it is conceivable that the true burden of STH infections is underestimated by assessment tools relying on self-declared signs and symptoms as is usually the case in population-based surveys. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Stephenson and colleagues highlighted the possibility of STH infections lowering the physical fitness of boys aged 6-12 years11,12. This line of scientific inquiry gained new momentum recently13,14,15. The 20-meter (m) shuttle run test was developed and validated by Léger et al.16 and is used worldwide to measure the aerobic fitness of children17. The test is easy to standardize and can be performed wherever a 20-m long and flat running course and an audio source are available, making its use attractive in resource-constrained settings13. To facilitate and standardize attempts at assessing whether STH infections have an effect on the physical fitness of school-aged children, we present methodologies that diagnose STH infections or measure physical fitness that are simple to execute and yet, provide accurate and reproducible outcomes. This will help to generate new evidence regarding the health impact of STH infections.
Infection, Issue 66, Immunology, Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Soil-transmitted helminths, physical fitness, Kato-Katz technique, Baermann technique, 20-meter shuttle run test, children
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Quantitation of γH2AX Foci in Tissue Samples
Authors: Michelle M. Tang, Li-Jeen Mah, Raja S. Vasireddy, George T. Georgiadis, Assam El-Osta, Simon G. Royce, Tom C. Karagiannis.
Institutions: The Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct, The Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct, The University of Melbourne, Royal Children's Hospital, The University of Melbourne.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are particularly lethal and genotoxic lesions, that can arise either by endogenous (physiological or pathological) processes or by exogenous factors, particularly ionizing radiation and radiomimetic compounds. Phosphorylation of the H2A histone variant, H2AX, at the serine-139 residue, in the highly conserved C-terminal SQEY motif, forming γH2AX, is an early response to DNA double-strand breaks1. This phosphorylation event is mediated by the phosphatidyl-inosito 3-kinase (PI3K) family of proteins, ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM), DNA-protein kinase catalytic subunit and ATM and RAD3-related (ATR)2. Overall, DSB induction results in the formation of discrete nuclear γH2AX foci which can be easily detected and quantitated by immunofluorescence microscopy2. Given the unique specificity and sensitivity of this marker, analysis of γH2AX foci has led to a wide range of applications in biomedical research, particularly in radiation biology and nuclear medicine. The quantitation of γH2AX foci has been most widely investigated in cell culture systems in the context of ionizing radiation-induced DSBs. Apart from cellular radiosensitivity, immunofluorescence based assays have also been used to evaluate the efficacy of radiation-modifying compounds. In addition, γH2AX has been used as a molecular marker to examine the efficacy of various DSB-inducing compounds and is recently being heralded as important marker of ageing and disease, particularly cancer3. Further, immunofluorescence-based methods have been adapted to suit detection and quantitation of γH2AX foci ex vivo and in vivo4,5. Here, we demonstrate a typical immunofluorescence method for detection and quantitation of γH2AX foci in mouse tissues.
Cellular Biology, Issue 40, immunofluorescence, DNA double-strand breaks, histone variant, H2AX, DNA damage, ionising radiation, reactive oxygen species
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Development of an in vitro model system for studying the interaction of Equus caballus IgE with its high-affinity receptor FcεRI
Authors: Sari Sabban, Hongtu Ye, Birgit Helm.
Institutions: King Abdulaziz University, The University of Sheffield.
The interaction of IgE with its high-affinity Fc receptor (FcεRI) followed by an antigenic challenge is the principal pathway in IgE mediated allergic reactions. As a consequence of the high affinity binding between IgE and FcεRI, along with the continuous production of IgE by B cells, allergies usually persist throughout life, with currently no permanent cure available. Horses, especially race horses, which are commonly inbred, are a species of mammals that are very prone to the development of hypersensitivity responses, which can seriously affect their performance. Physiological responses to allergic sensitization in horses mirror that observed in humans and dogs. In this paper we describe the development of an in situ assay system for the quantitative assessment of the release of mediators of the allergic response pertaining to the equine system. To this end, the gene encoding equine FcεRIα was transfected into and expressed onto the surface of parental Rat Basophil Leukemia (RBL-2H3.1) cells. The gene product of the transfected equine α-chain formed a functional receptor complex with the endogenous rat β- and γ-chains 1. The resultant assay system facilitated an assessment of the quantity of mediator secreted from equine FcεRIα transfected RBL-2H3.1 cells following sensitization with equine IgE and antigenic challenge using β-hexosaminidase release as a readout 2, 3. Mediator release peaked at 36.68% ± 4.88% at 100 ng ml-1 of antigen. This assay was modified from previous assays used to study human and canine allergic responses 4, 5. We have also shown that this type of assay system has multiple applications for the development of diagnostic tools and the safety assessment of potential therapeutic intervention strategies in allergic disease 6, 2, 3.
Immunology, Issue 93, Allergy, Immunology, IgE, Fcε, RI, horse (Equus caballus), Immunoassay
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Cortical Source Analysis of High-Density EEG Recordings in Children
Authors: Joe Bathelt, Helen O'Reilly, Michelle de Haan.
Institutions: UCL Institute of Child Health, University College London.
EEG is traditionally described as a neuroimaging technique with high temporal and low spatial resolution. Recent advances in biophysical modelling and signal processing make it possible to exploit information from other imaging modalities like structural MRI that provide high spatial resolution to overcome this constraint1. This is especially useful for investigations that require high resolution in the temporal as well as spatial domain. In addition, due to the easy application and low cost of EEG recordings, EEG is often the method of choice when working with populations, such as young children, that do not tolerate functional MRI scans well. However, in order to investigate which neural substrates are involved, anatomical information from structural MRI is still needed. Most EEG analysis packages work with standard head models that are based on adult anatomy. The accuracy of these models when used for children is limited2, because the composition and spatial configuration of head tissues changes dramatically over development3.  In the present paper, we provide an overview of our recent work in utilizing head models based on individual structural MRI scans or age specific head models to reconstruct the cortical generators of high density EEG. This article describes how EEG recordings are acquired, processed, and analyzed with pediatric populations at the London Baby Lab, including laboratory setup, task design, EEG preprocessing, MRI processing, and EEG channel level and source analysis. 
Behavior, Issue 88, EEG, electroencephalogram, development, source analysis, pediatric, minimum-norm estimation, cognitive neuroscience, event-related potentials 
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Simultaneous Quantification of T-Cell Receptor Excision Circles (TRECs) and K-Deleting Recombination Excision Circles (KRECs) by Real-time PCR
Authors: Alessandra Sottini, Federico Serana, Diego Bertoli, Marco Chiarini, Monica Valotti, Marion Vaglio Tessitore, Luisa Imberti.
Institutions: Spedali Civili di Brescia.
T-cell receptor excision circles (TRECs) and K-deleting recombination excision circles (KRECs) are circularized DNA elements formed during recombination process that creates T- and B-cell receptors. Because TRECs and KRECs are unable to replicate, they are diluted after each cell division, and therefore persist in the cell. Their quantity in peripheral blood can be considered as an estimation of thymic and bone marrow output. By combining well established and commonly used TREC assay with a modified version of KREC assay, we have developed a duplex quantitative real-time PCR that allows quantification of both newly-produced T and B lymphocytes in a single assay. The number of TRECs and KRECs are obtained using a standard curve prepared by serially diluting TREC and KREC signal joints cloned in a bacterial plasmid, together with a fragment of T-cell receptor alpha constant gene that serves as reference gene. Results are reported as number of TRECs and KRECs/106 cells or per ml of blood. The quantification of these DNA fragments have been proven useful for monitoring immune reconstitution following bone marrow transplantation in both children and adults, for improved characterization of immune deficiencies, or for better understanding of certain immunomodulating drug activity.
Immunology, Issue 94, B lymphocytes, primary immunodeficiency, real-time PCR, immune recovery, T-cell homeostasis, T lymphocytes, thymic output, bone marrow output
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Sublingual Immunotherapy as an Alternative to Induce Protection Against Acute Respiratory Infections
Authors: Natalia Muñoz-Wolf, Analía Rial, José M. Saavedra, José A. Chabalgoity.
Institutions: Universidad de la República, Trinity College Dublin.
Sublingual route has been widely used to deliver small molecules into the bloodstream and to modulate the immune response at different sites. It has been shown to effectively induce humoral and cellular responses at systemic and mucosal sites, namely the lungs and urogenital tract. Sublingual vaccination can promote protection against infections at the lower and upper respiratory tract; it can also promote tolerance to allergens and ameliorate asthma symptoms. Modulation of lung’s immune response by sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is safer than direct administration of formulations by intranasal route because it does not require delivery of potentially harmful molecules directly into the airways. In contrast to intranasal delivery, side effects involving brain toxicity or facial paralysis are not promoted by SLIT. The immune mechanisms underlying SLIT remain elusive and its use for the treatment of acute lung infections has not yet been explored. Thus, development of appropriate animal models of SLIT is needed to further explore its potential advantages. This work shows how to perform sublingual administration of therapeutic agents in mice to evaluate their ability to protect against acute pneumococcal pneumonia. Technical aspects of mouse handling during sublingual inoculation, precise identification of sublingual mucosa, draining lymph nodes and isolation of tissues, bronchoalveolar lavage and lungs are illustrated. Protocols for single cell suspension preparation for FACS analysis are described in detail. Other downstream applications for the analysis of the immune response are discussed. Technical aspects of the preparation of Streptococcus pneumoniae inoculum and intranasal challenge of mice are also explained. SLIT is a simple technique that allows screening of candidate molecules to modulate lungs’ immune response. Parameters affecting the success of SLIT are related to molecular size, susceptibility to degradation and stability of highly concentrated formulations.
Medicine, Issue 90, Sublingual immunotherapy, Pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Lungs, Flagellin, TLR5, NLRC4
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Portable Intermodal Preferential Looking (IPL): Investigating Language Comprehension in Typically Developing Toddlers and Young Children with Autism
Authors: Letitia R. Naigles, Andrea T. Tovar.
Institutions: University of Connecticut.
One of the defining characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is difficulty with language and communication.1 Children with ASD's onset of speaking is usually delayed, and many children with ASD consistently produce language less frequently and of lower lexical and grammatical complexity than their typically developing (TD) peers.6,8,12,23 However, children with ASD also exhibit a significant social deficit, and researchers and clinicians continue to debate the extent to which the deficits in social interaction account for or contribute to the deficits in language production.5,14,19,25 Standardized assessments of language in children with ASD usually do include a comprehension component; however, many such comprehension tasks assess just one aspect of language (e.g., vocabulary),5 or include a significant motor component (e.g., pointing, act-out), and/or require children to deliberately choose between a number of alternatives. These last two behaviors are known to also be challenging to children with ASD.7,12,13,16 We present a method which can assess the language comprehension of young typically developing children (9-36 months) and children with autism.2,4,9,11,22 This method, Portable Intermodal Preferential Looking (P-IPL), projects side-by-side video images from a laptop onto a portable screen. The video images are paired first with a 'baseline' (nondirecting) audio, and then presented again paired with a 'test' linguistic audio that matches only one of the video images. Children's eye movements while watching the video are filmed and later coded. Children who understand the linguistic audio will look more quickly to, and longer at, the video that matches the linguistic audio.2,4,11,18,22,26 This paradigm includes a number of components that have recently been miniaturized (projector, camcorder, digitizer) to enable portability and easy setup in children's homes. This is a crucial point for assessing young children with ASD, who are frequently uncomfortable in new (e.g., laboratory) settings. Videos can be created to assess a wide range of specific components of linguistic knowledge, such as Subject-Verb-Object word order, wh-questions, and tense/aspect suffixes on verbs; videos can also assess principles of word learning such as a noun bias, a shape bias, and syntactic bootstrapping.10,14,17,21,24 Videos include characters and speech that are visually and acoustically salient and well tolerated by children with ASD.
Medicine, Issue 70, Neuroscience, Psychology, Behavior, Intermodal preferential looking, language comprehension, children with autism, child development, autism
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Measuring Attentional Biases for Threat in Children and Adults
Authors: Vanessa LoBue.
Institutions: Rutgers University.
Investigators have long been interested in the human propensity for the rapid detection of threatening stimuli. However, until recently, research in this domain has focused almost exclusively on adult participants, completely ignoring the topic of threat detection over the course of development. One of the biggest reasons for the lack of developmental work in this area is likely the absence of a reliable paradigm that can measure perceptual biases for threat in children. To address this issue, we recently designed a modified visual search paradigm similar to the standard adult paradigm that is appropriate for studying threat detection in preschool-aged participants. Here we describe this new procedure. In the general paradigm, we present participants with matrices of color photographs, and ask them to find and touch a target on the screen. Latency to touch the target is recorded. Using a touch-screen monitor makes the procedure simple and easy, allowing us to collect data in participants ranging from 3 years of age to adults. Thus far, the paradigm has consistently shown that both adults and children detect threatening stimuli (e.g., snakes, spiders, angry/fearful faces) more quickly than neutral stimuli (e.g., flowers, mushrooms, happy/neutral faces). Altogether, this procedure provides an important new tool for researchers interested in studying the development of attentional biases for threat.
Behavior, Issue 92, Detection, threat, attention, attentional bias, anxiety, visual search
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Cell-based Assay Protocol for the Prognostic Prediction of Idiopathic Scoliosis Using Cellular Dielectric Spectroscopy
Authors: Marie-Yvonne Akoume, Anita Franco, Alain Moreau.
Institutions: Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center, Université de Montréal.
This protocol details the experimental and analytical procedure for a cell-based assay developed in our laboratory as a functional test to predict the prognosis of idiopathic scoliosis in asymptomatic and affected children. The assay consists of the evaluation of the functional status of Gi and Gs proteins in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) by cellular dielectric spectroscopy (CDS), using an automated CDS-based instrument, and the classification of children into three functional groups (FG1, FG2, FG3) with respect to the profile of imbalance between the degree of response to Gi and Gs proteins stimulation. The classification is further confirmed by the differential effect of osteopontin (OPN) on response to Gi stimulation among groups and the severe progression of disease is referenced by FG2. Approximately, a volume of 10 ml of blood is required to extract PBMCs by Ficoll-gradient and cells are then stored in liquid nitrogen. The adequate number of PBMCs to perform the assay is obtained after two days of cell culture. Essentially, cells are first incubated with phytohemmaglutinin (PHA). After 24 hr incubation, medium is replaced by a PHA-free culture medium for an additional 24 hr prior to cell seeding and OPN treatment. Cells are then spectroscopically screened for their responses to somatostatin and isoproterenol, which respectively activate Gi and Gs proteins through their cognate receptors. Both somatostatin and isoproterenol are simultaneously injected with an integrated fluidics system and the cells' responses are monitored for 15 min. The assay can be performed with fresh or frozen PBMCs and the procedure is completed within 4 days.
Medicine, Issue 80, Blood Cells, Lymphocytes, Spinal Diseases, Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures, Clinical Laboratory Techniques, Dielectric Spectroscopy, Musculoskeletal Diseases, Idiopathic scoliosis, classification, prognosis, G proteins, cellular dielectric spectroscopy, PBMCs
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Isolation of Mouse Respiratory Epithelial Cells and Exposure to Experimental Cigarette Smoke at Air Liquid Interface
Authors: Hilaire C. Lam, Augustine M.K. Choi, Stefan W. Ryter.
Institutions: Harvard Medical School, University of Pittsburgh.
Pulmonary epithelial cells can be isolated from the respiratory tract of mice and cultured at air-liquid interface (ALI) as a model of differentiated respiratory epithelium. A protocol is described for isolating and exposing these cells to mainstream cigarette smoke (CS), in order to study epithelial cell responses to CS exposure. The protocol consists of three parts: the isolation of airway epithelial cells from mouse trachea, the culturing of these cells at air-liquid interface (ALI) as fully differentiated epithelial cells, and the delivery of calibrated mainstream CS to these cells in culture. The ALI culture system allows the culture of respiratory epithelia under conditions that more closely resemble their physiological setting than ordinary liquid culture systems. The study of molecular and lung cellular responses to CS exposure is a critical component of understanding the impact of environmental air pollution on human health. Research findings in this area may ultimately contribute towards understanding the etiology of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other tobacco-related diseases, which represent major global health problems.
Medicine, Issue 48, Air-Liquid Interface, Cell isolation, Cigarette smoke, Epithelial cells
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Analysis of Pulmonary Dendritic Cell Maturation and Migration during Allergic Airway Inflammation
Authors: Rahul Kushwah, Jim Hu.
Institutions: McMaster University, Hamilton, University of Toronto.
Dendritic cells (DCs) are the key players involved in initiation of adaptive immune response by activating antigen-specific T cells. DCs are present in peripheral tissues in steady state; however in response to antigen stimulation, DCs take up the antigen and rapidly migrate to the draining lymph nodes where they initiate T cell response against the antigen1,2. Additionally, DCs also play a key role in initiating autoimmune as well as allergic immune response3. DCs play an essential role in both initiation of immune response and induction of tolerance in the setting of lung environment4. Lung environment is largely tolerogenic, owing to the exposure to vast array of environmental antigens5. However, in some individuals there is a break in tolerance, which leads to induction of allergy and asthma. In this study, we describe a strategy, which can be used to monitor airway DC maturation and migration in response to the antigen used for sensitization. The measurement of airway DC maturation and migration allows for assessment of the kinetics of immune response during airway allergic inflammation and also assists in understanding the magnitude of the subsequent immune response along with the underlying mechanisms. Our strategy is based on the use of ovalbumin as a sensitizing agent. Ovalbumin-induced allergic asthma is a widely used model to reproduce the airway eosinophilia, pulmonary inflammation and elevated IgE levels found during asthma6,7. After sensitization, mice are challenged by intranasal delivery of FITC labeled ovalbumin, which allows for specific labeling of airway DCs which uptake ovalbumin. Next, using several DC specific markers, we can assess the maturation of these DCs and can also assess their migration to the draining lymph nodes by employing flow cytometry.
Immunology, Issue 65, Medicine, Physiology, Dendritic Cells, allergic airway inflammation, ovalbumin, lymph nodes, lungs, dendritic cell maturation, dendritic cell migration, mediastinal lymph nodes
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Evaluation of Respiratory System Mechanics in Mice using the Forced Oscillation Technique
Authors: Toby K. McGovern, Annette Robichaud, Liah Fereydoonzad, Thomas F. Schuessler, James G. Martin.
Institutions: McGill University , SCIREQ Scientific Respiratory Equipment Inc..
The forced oscillation technique (FOT) is a powerful, integrative and translational tool permitting the experimental assessment of lung function in mice in a comprehensive, detailed, precise and reproducible manner. It provides measurements of respiratory system mechanics through the analysis of pressure and volume signals acquired in reaction to predefined, small amplitude, oscillatory airflow waveforms, which are typically applied at the subject's airway opening. The present protocol details the steps required to adequately execute forced oscillation measurements in mice using a computer-controlled piston ventilator (flexiVent; SCIREQ Inc, Montreal, Qc, Canada). The description is divided into four parts: preparatory steps, mechanical ventilation, lung function measurements, and data analysis. It also includes details of how to assess airway responsiveness to inhaled methacholine in anesthetized mice, a common application of this technique which also extends to other outcomes and various lung pathologies. Measurements obtained in naïve mice as well as from an oxidative-stress driven model of airway damage are presented to illustrate how this tool can contribute to a better characterization and understanding of studied physiological changes or disease models as well as to applications in new research areas.
Medicine, Issue 75, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Biophysics, Pathology, lung diseases, asthma, respiratory function tests, respiratory system, forced oscillation technique, respiratory system mechanics, airway hyperresponsiveness, flexiVent, lung physiology, lung, oxidative stress, ventilator, cannula, mice, animal model, clinical techniques
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Measuring Local Anaphylaxis in Mice
Authors: Holly Evans, Kristin E. Killoran, Edward Mitre.
Institutions: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Allergic responses are the result of the activation of mast cells and basophils, and the subsequent release of vasoactive and proinflammatory mediators. Exposure to an allergen in a sensitized individual can result in clinical symptoms that vary from minor erythema to life threatening anaphylaxis. In the laboratory, various animal models have been developed to understand the mechanisms driving allergic responses. Herein, we describe a detailed method for measuring changes in vascular permeability to quantify localized allergic responses. The local anaphylaxis assay was first reported in the 1920s, and has been adapted from the technique published by Kojima et al. in 20071. In this assay, mice sensitized to OVA are challenged in the left ear with vehicle and in the right ear with OVA. This is followed by an intravenous injection of Evans Blue dye. Ten min after injecting Evans Blue, the animal is euthanized and the dye that has extravasated into the ears is extracted overnight in formamide. The absorbance of the extracted dye is then quantified with a spectrophotometer. This method reliably results in a visual and quantifiable manifestation of a local allergic response.
Immunology, Issue 92, Allergy, sensitization, hypersensitivity, anaphylaxis, mouse, IgE, mast cell, activation, vascular permeability
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A Microplate Assay to Assess Chemical Effects on RBL-2H3 Mast Cell Degranulation: Effects of Triclosan without Use of an Organic Solvent
Authors: Lisa M. Weatherly, Rachel H. Kennedy, Juyoung Shim, Julie A. Gosse.
Institutions: University of Maine, Orono, University of Maine, Orono.
Mast cells play important roles in allergic disease and immune defense against parasites. Once activated (e.g. by an allergen), they degranulate, a process that results in the exocytosis of allergic mediators. Modulation of mast cell degranulation by drugs and toxicants may have positive or adverse effects on human health. Mast cell function has been dissected in detail with the use of rat basophilic leukemia mast cells (RBL-2H3), a widely accepted model of human mucosal mast cells3-5. Mast cell granule component and the allergic mediator β-hexosaminidase, which is released linearly in tandem with histamine from mast cells6, can easily and reliably be measured through reaction with a fluorogenic substrate, yielding measurable fluorescence intensity in a microplate assay that is amenable to high-throughput studies1. Originally published by Naal et al.1, we have adapted this degranulation assay for the screening of drugs and toxicants and demonstrate its use here. Triclosan is a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent that is present in many consumer products and has been found to be a therapeutic aid in human allergic skin disease7-11, although the mechanism for this effect is unknown. Here we demonstrate an assay for the effect of triclosan on mast cell degranulation. We recently showed that triclosan strongly affects mast cell function2. In an effort to avoid use of an organic solvent, triclosan is dissolved directly into aqueous buffer with heat and stirring, and resultant concentration is confirmed using UV-Vis spectrophotometry (using ε280 = 4,200 L/M/cm)12. This protocol has the potential to be used with a variety of chemicals to determine their effects on mast cell degranulation, and more broadly, their allergic potential.
Immunology, Issue 81, mast cell, basophil, degranulation, RBL-2H3, triclosan, irgasan, antibacterial, β-hexosaminidase, allergy, Asthma, toxicants, ionophore, antigen, fluorescence, microplate, UV-Vis
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Murine Model of Allergen Induced Asthma
Authors: Aravind T. Reddy, Sowmya P. Lakshmi, Raju C. Reddy.
Institutions: Emory University and Atlanta VA Medical Center.
Asthma is a major cause of morbidity and mortality, affecting some 300 million people throughout the world.1 More than 8% of the US population has asthma, with the prevalence increasing.2 As with other diseases, animal models of allergic airway disease greatly facilitate understanding of the underlying pathophysiology, help identify potential therapeutic targets, and allow preclinical testing of possible new therapies. Models of allergic airway disease have been developed in several animal species, but murine models are particularly attractive due to the low cost, ready availability, and well-characterized immune systems of these animals.3 Availability of a variety of transgenic strains further increases the attractiveness of these models.4 Here we describe two murine models of allergic airway disease, both employing ovalbumin as the antigen. Following initial sensitization by intraperitoneal injection, one model delivers the antigen challenge by nebulization, the other by intratracheal delivery. These two models offer complementary advantages, with each mimicking the major features of human asthma.5 The major features of acute asthma include an exaggerated airway response to stimuli such as methacholine (airway hyperresponsiveness; AHR) and eosinophil-rich airway inflammation. These are also prominent effects of allergen challenge in our murine models,5,6 and we describe techniques for measuring them and thus evaluating the effects of experimental manipulation. Specifically, we describe both invasive7 and non-invasive8 techniques for measuring airway hyperresponsiveness as well as methods for assessing infiltration of inflammatory cells into the airways and the lung. Airway inflammatory cells are collected by bronchoalveolar lavage while lung histopathology is used to assess markers of inflammation throughout the organ. These techniques provide powerful tools for studying asthma in ways that would not be possible in humans.
Immunology, Issue 63, Allergy, airway hyperresponsiveness, pulmonary function, eosinophil, ovalbumin, methacholine, airway resistance, plethysmography, flexiVent, bronchoalveolar lavage, physiology
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Physical, Chemical and Biological Characterization of Six Biochars Produced for the Remediation of Contaminated Sites
Authors: Mackenzie J. Denyes, Michèle A. Parisien, Allison Rutter, Barbara A. Zeeb.
Institutions: Royal Military College of Canada, Queen's University.
The physical and chemical properties of biochar vary based on feedstock sources and production conditions, making it possible to engineer biochars with specific functions (e.g. carbon sequestration, soil quality improvements, or contaminant sorption). In 2013, the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) made publically available their Standardized Product Definition and Product Testing Guidelines (Version 1.1) which set standards for physical and chemical characteristics for biochar. Six biochars made from three different feedstocks and at two temperatures were analyzed for characteristics related to their use as a soil amendment. The protocol describes analyses of the feedstocks and biochars and includes: cation exchange capacity (CEC), specific surface area (SSA), organic carbon (OC) and moisture percentage, pH, particle size distribution, and proximate and ultimate analysis. Also described in the protocol are the analyses of the feedstocks and biochars for contaminants including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), metals and mercury as well as nutrients (phosphorous, nitrite and nitrate and ammonium as nitrogen). The protocol also includes the biological testing procedures, earthworm avoidance and germination assays. Based on the quality assurance / quality control (QA/QC) results of blanks, duplicates, standards and reference materials, all methods were determined adequate for use with biochar and feedstock materials. All biochars and feedstocks were well within the criterion set by the IBI and there were little differences among biochars, except in the case of the biochar produced from construction waste materials. This biochar (referred to as Old biochar) was determined to have elevated levels of arsenic, chromium, copper, and lead, and failed the earthworm avoidance and germination assays. Based on these results, Old biochar would not be appropriate for use as a soil amendment for carbon sequestration, substrate quality improvements or remediation.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 93, biochar, characterization, carbon sequestration, remediation, International Biochar Initiative (IBI), soil amendment
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Culturing of Human Nasal Epithelial Cells at the Air Liquid Interface
Authors: Loretta Müller, Luisa E. Brighton, Johnny L. Carson, William A. Fischer II, Ilona Jaspers.
Institutions: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In vitro models using human primary epithelial cells are essential in understanding key functions of the respiratory epithelium in the context of microbial infections or inhaled agents. Direct comparisons of cells obtained from diseased populations allow us to characterize different phenotypes and dissect the underlying mechanisms mediating changes in epithelial cell function. Culturing epithelial cells from the human tracheobronchial region has been well documented, but is limited by the availability of human lung tissue or invasiveness associated with obtaining the bronchial brushes biopsies. Nasal epithelial cells are obtained through much less invasive superficial nasal scrape biopsies and subjects can be biopsied multiple times with no significant side effects. Additionally, the nose is the entry point to the respiratory system and therefore one of the first sites to be exposed to any kind of air-borne stressor, such as microbial agents, pollutants, or allergens. Briefly, nasal epithelial cells obtained from human volunteers are expanded on coated tissue culture plates, and then transferred onto cell culture inserts. Upon reaching confluency, cells continue to be cultured at the air-liquid interface (ALI), for several weeks, which creates more physiologically relevant conditions. The ALI culture condition uses defined media leading to a differentiated epithelium that exhibits morphological and functional characteristics similar to the human nasal epithelium, with both ciliated and mucus producing cells. Tissue culture inserts with differentiated nasal epithelial cells can be manipulated in a variety of ways depending on the research questions (treatment with pharmacological agents, transduction with lentiviral vectors, exposure to gases, or infection with microbial agents) and analyzed for numerous different endpoints ranging from cellular and molecular pathways, functional changes, morphology, etc. In vitro models of differentiated human nasal epithelial cells will enable investigators to address novel and important research questions by using organotypic experimental models that largely mimic the nasal epithelium in vivo.
Cellular Biology, Issue 80, Epithelium, Cell culture models, ciliated, air pollution, co-culture models, nasal epithelium
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Inducing Plasticity of Astrocytic Receptors by Manipulation of Neuronal Firing Rates
Authors: Alison X. Xie, Kelli Lauderdale, Thomas Murphy, Timothy L. Myers, Todd A. Fiacco.
Institutions: University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside.
Close to two decades of research has established that astrocytes in situ and in vivo express numerous G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that can be stimulated by neuronally-released transmitter. However, the ability of astrocytic receptors to exhibit plasticity in response to changes in neuronal activity has received little attention. Here we describe a model system that can be used to globally scale up or down astrocytic group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in acute brain slices. Included are methods on how to prepare parasagittal hippocampal slices, construct chambers suitable for long-term slice incubation, bidirectionally manipulate neuronal action potential frequency, load astrocytes and astrocyte processes with fluorescent Ca2+ indicator, and measure changes in astrocytic Gq GPCR activity by recording spontaneous and evoked astrocyte Ca2+ events using confocal microscopy. In essence, a “calcium roadmap” is provided for how to measure plasticity of astrocytic Gq GPCRs. Applications of the technique for study of astrocytes are discussed. Having an understanding of how astrocytic receptor signaling is affected by changes in neuronal activity has important implications for both normal synaptic function as well as processes underlying neurological disorders and neurodegenerative disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, astrocyte, plasticity, mGluRs, neuronal Firing, electrophysiology, Gq GPCRs, Bolus-loading, calcium, microdomains, acute slices, Hippocampus, mouse
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Measuring Respiratory Function in Mice Using Unrestrained Whole-body Plethysmography
Authors: Rebecca Lim, Marcus J. Zavou, Phillipa-Louise Milton, Siow Teng Chan, Jean L. Tan, Hayley Dickinson, Sean V. Murphy, Graham Jenkin, Euan M. Wallace.
Institutions: Monash Institute of Medical Research, Monash Medical Centre, Animal Resource Centre, Perth, Australia, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Respiratory dysfunction is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the world and the rates of mortality continue to rise. Quantitative assessment of lung function in rodent models is an important tool in the development of future therapies. Commonly used techniques for assessing respiratory function including invasive plethysmography and forced oscillation. While these techniques provide valuable information, data collection can be fraught with artefacts and experimental variability due to the need for anesthesia and/or invasive instrumentation of the animal. In contrast, unrestrained whole-body plethysmography (UWBP) offers a precise, non-invasive, quantitative way by which to analyze respiratory parameters. This technique avoids the use of anesthesia and restraints, which is common to traditional plethysmography techniques. This video will demonstrate the UWBP procedure including the equipment set up, calibration and lung function recording. It will explain how to analyze the collected data, as well as identify experimental outliers and artefacts that results from animal movement. The respiratory parameters obtained using this technique include tidal volume, minute volume, inspiratory duty cycle, inspiratory flow rate and the ratio of inspiration time to expiration time. UWBP does not rely on specialized skills and is inexpensive to perform. A key feature of UWBP, and most appealing to potential users, is the ability to perform repeated measures of lung function on the same animal.
Physiology, Issue 90, Unrestrained Whole Body Plethysmography, Lung function, Respiratory Disease, Rodents
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A Toolkit to Enable Hydrocarbon Conversion in Aqueous Environments
Authors: Eva K. Brinkman, Kira Schipper, Nadine Bongaerts, Mathias J. Voges, Alessandro Abate, S. Aljoscha Wahl.
Institutions: Delft University of Technology, Delft University of Technology.
This work puts forward a toolkit that enables the conversion of alkanes by Escherichia coli and presents a proof of principle of its applicability. The toolkit consists of multiple standard interchangeable parts (BioBricks)9 addressing the conversion of alkanes, regulation of gene expression and survival in toxic hydrocarbon-rich environments. A three-step pathway for alkane degradation was implemented in E. coli to enable the conversion of medium- and long-chain alkanes to their respective alkanols, alkanals and ultimately alkanoic-acids. The latter were metabolized via the native β-oxidation pathway. To facilitate the oxidation of medium-chain alkanes (C5-C13) and cycloalkanes (C5-C8), four genes (alkB2, rubA3, rubA4and rubB) of the alkane hydroxylase system from Gordonia sp. TF68,21 were transformed into E. coli. For the conversion of long-chain alkanes (C15-C36), theladA gene from Geobacillus thermodenitrificans was implemented. For the required further steps of the degradation process, ADH and ALDH (originating from G. thermodenitrificans) were introduced10,11. The activity was measured by resting cell assays. For each oxidative step, enzyme activity was observed. To optimize the process efficiency, the expression was only induced under low glucose conditions: a substrate-regulated promoter, pCaiF, was used. pCaiF is present in E. coli K12 and regulates the expression of the genes involved in the degradation of non-glucose carbon sources. The last part of the toolkit - targeting survival - was implemented using solvent tolerance genes, PhPFDα and β, both from Pyrococcus horikoshii OT3. Organic solvents can induce cell stress and decreased survivability by negatively affecting protein folding. As chaperones, PhPFDα and β improve the protein folding process e.g. under the presence of alkanes. The expression of these genes led to an improved hydrocarbon tolerance shown by an increased growth rate (up to 50%) in the presences of 10% n-hexane in the culture medium were observed. Summarizing, the results indicate that the toolkit enables E. coli to convert and tolerate hydrocarbons in aqueous environments. As such, it represents an initial step towards a sustainable solution for oil-remediation using a synthetic biology approach.
Bioengineering, Issue 68, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Oil remediation, alkane metabolism, alkane hydroxylase system, resting cell assay, prefoldin, Escherichia coli, synthetic biology, homologous interaction mapping, mathematical model, BioBrick, iGEM
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Determination of the Transport Rate of Xenobiotics and Nanomaterials Across the Placenta using the ex vivo Human Placental Perfusion Model
Authors: Stefanie Grafmüller, Pius Manser, Harald F. Krug, Peter Wick, Ursula von Mandach.
Institutions: University Hospital Zurich, EMPA Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, University of Bern.
Decades ago the human placenta was thought to be an impenetrable barrier between mother and unborn child. However, the discovery of thalidomide-induced birth defects and many later studies afterwards proved the opposite. Today several harmful xenobiotics like nicotine, heroin, methadone or drugs as well as environmental pollutants were described to overcome this barrier. With the growing use of nanotechnology, the placenta is likely to come into contact with novel nanoparticles either accidentally through exposure or intentionally in the case of potential nanomedical applications. Data from animal experiments cannot be extrapolated to humans because the placenta is the most species-specific mammalian organ 1. Therefore, the ex vivo dual recirculating human placental perfusion, developed by Panigel et al. in 1967 2 and continuously modified by Schneider et al. in 1972 3, can serve as an excellent model to study the transfer of xenobiotics or particles. Here, we focus on the ex vivo dual recirculating human placental perfusion protocol and its further development to acquire reproducible results. The placentae were obtained after informed consent of the mothers from uncomplicated term pregnancies undergoing caesarean delivery. The fetal and maternal vessels of an intact cotyledon were cannulated and perfused at least for five hours. As a model particle fluorescently labelled polystyrene particles with sizes of 80 and 500 nm in diameter were added to the maternal circuit. The 80 nm particles were able to cross the placental barrier and provide a perfect example for a substance which is transferred across the placenta to the fetus while the 500 nm particles were retained in the placental tissue or maternal circuit. The ex vivo human placental perfusion model is one of few models providing reliable information about the transport behavior of xenobiotics at an important tissue barrier which delivers predictive and clinical relevant data.
Biomedical Engineering, Issue 76, Medicine, Bioengineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Pharmacology, Obstetrics, Nanotechnology, Placenta, Pharmacokinetics, Nanomedicine, humans, ex vivo perfusion, perfusion, biological barrier, xenobiotics, nanomaterials, clinical model
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EEG Mu Rhythm in Typical and Atypical Development
Authors: Raphael Bernier, Benjamin Aaronson, Anna Kresse.
Institutions: University of Washington, University of Washington.
Electroencephalography (EEG) is an effective, efficient, and noninvasive method of assessing and recording brain activity. Given the excellent temporal resolution, EEG can be used to examine the neural response related to specific behaviors, states, or external stimuli. An example of this utility is the assessment of the mirror neuron system (MNS) in humans through the examination of the EEG mu rhythm. The EEG mu rhythm, oscillatory activity in the 8-12 Hz frequency range recorded from centrally located electrodes, is suppressed when an individual executes, or simply observes, goal directed actions. As such, it has been proposed to reflect activity of the MNS. It has been theorized that dysfunction in the mirror neuron system (MNS) plays a contributing role in the social deficits of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The MNS can then be noninvasively examined in clinical populations by using EEG mu rhythm attenuation as an index for its activity. The described protocol provides an avenue to examine social cognitive functions theoretically linked to the MNS in individuals with typical and atypical development, such as ASD. 
Medicine, Issue 86, Electroencephalography (EEG), mu rhythm, imitation, autism spectrum disorder, social cognition, mirror neuron system
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Layers of Symbiosis - Visualizing the Termite Hindgut Microbial Community
Authors: Jared Leadbetter.
Institutions: California Institute of Technology - Caltech.
Jared Leadbetter takes us for a nature walk through the diversity of life resident in the termite hindgut - a microenvironment containing 250 different species found nowhere else on Earth. Jared reveals that the symbiosis exhibited by this system is multi-layered and involves not only a relationship between the termite and its gut inhabitants, but also involves a complex web of symbiosis among the gut microbes themselves.
Microbiology, issue 4, microbial community, symbiosis, hindgut
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Investigating the Microbial Community in the Termite Hindgut - Interview
Authors: Jared Leadbetter.
Institutions: California Institute of Technology - Caltech.
Jared Leadbetter explains why the termite-gut microbial community is an excellent system for studying the complex interactions between microbes. The symbiotic relationship existing between the host insect and lignocellulose-degrading gut microbes is explained, as well as the industrial uses of these microbes for degrading plant biomass and generating biofuels.
Microbiology, issue 4, microbial community, diversity
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