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Landscape dynamics in northwestern Amazonia: an assessment of pastures, fire and illicit crops as drivers of tropical deforestation.
PUBLISHED: 01-30-2013
Many studies have identified drivers of deforestation throughout the tropics and, in most cases, have recognised differences in the level of threat. However, only a few have also looked at the temporal and spatial dynamics by which those drivers act, which is critical for assessing the conservation of biodiversity as well as for landscape planning. In this study, we analyse land cover change between 2000 and 2009 in north-western Colombian Amazonia to identify the interactions between the use of fire, cultivation of illicit crops and establishment of pastures, and their impacts on the loss of forest in the region. Yearly analyses were undertaken at randomly selected sample areas to quantify the average areas of transition of land cover types under different landscape compositions: forest-dominated mosaics, pasture mosaics, fire mosaics, and illicit crop mosaics. Our results indicate that despite the fact that forest areas were well-preserved, deforestation occurred at a low annual rate (0.06%). Conversion to pasture was the main factor responsible for forest loss (the area of pastures tripled within forest mosaics over 8 years), and this process was independent of the landscape matrix in which the forests were located. In fire mosaics, burning is a common tool for forest clearing and conversion to pasture. Thus, forests in fire mosaics were highly disturbed and frequently transformed from primary to secondary forests. The use of fire for illicit cropping was not detected, partly due to the small size of common illicit crops. Forest regeneration from pastures and secondary vegetation was observed in areas with large amounts of natural forest. Overall, assuming the continuation of the observed pasture conversion trend and the use of forest fire, we suggest that our results should be incorporated into a spatially explicit and integrated decision support tool to target and focus land-planning activities and policies.
Authors: Sarah M. Collier, Matthew D. Ruark, Lawrence G. Oates, William E. Jokela, Curtis J. Dell.
Published: 08-03-2014
Measurement of greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes between the soil and the atmosphere, in both managed and unmanaged ecosystems, is critical to understanding the biogeochemical drivers of climate change and to the development and evaluation of GHG mitigation strategies based on modulation of landscape management practices. The static chamber-based method described here is based on trapping gases emitted from the soil surface within a chamber and collecting samples from the chamber headspace at regular intervals for analysis by gas chromatography. Change in gas concentration over time is used to calculate flux. This method can be utilized to measure landscape-based flux of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, and to estimate differences between treatments or explore system dynamics over seasons or years. Infrastructure requirements are modest, but a comprehensive experimental design is essential. This method is easily deployed in the field, conforms to established guidelines, and produces data suitable to large-scale GHG emissions studies.
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Analyzing Protein Dynamics Using Hydrogen Exchange Mass Spectrometry
Authors: Nikolai Hentze, Matthias P. Mayer.
Institutions: University of Heidelberg.
All cellular processes depend on the functionality of proteins. Although the functionality of a given protein is the direct consequence of its unique amino acid sequence, it is only realized by the folding of the polypeptide chain into a single defined three-dimensional arrangement or more commonly into an ensemble of interconverting conformations. Investigating the connection between protein conformation and its function is therefore essential for a complete understanding of how proteins are able to fulfill their great variety of tasks. One possibility to study conformational changes a protein undergoes while progressing through its functional cycle is hydrogen-1H/2H-exchange in combination with high-resolution mass spectrometry (HX-MS). HX-MS is a versatile and robust method that adds a new dimension to structural information obtained by e.g. crystallography. It is used to study protein folding and unfolding, binding of small molecule ligands, protein-protein interactions, conformational changes linked to enzyme catalysis, and allostery. In addition, HX-MS is often used when the amount of protein is very limited or crystallization of the protein is not feasible. Here we provide a general protocol for studying protein dynamics with HX-MS and describe as an example how to reveal the interaction interface of two proteins in a complex.   
Chemistry, Issue 81, Molecular Chaperones, mass spectrometers, Amino Acids, Peptides, Proteins, Enzymes, Coenzymes, Protein dynamics, conformational changes, allostery, protein folding, secondary structure, mass spectrometry
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An Orthotopic Murine Model of Human Prostate Cancer Metastasis
Authors: Janet Pavese, Irene M. Ogden, Raymond C. Bergan.
Institutions: Northwestern University, Northwestern University, Northwestern University.
Our laboratory has developed a novel orthotopic implantation model of human prostate cancer (PCa). As PCa death is not due to the primary tumor, but rather the formation of distinct metastasis, the ability to effectively model this progression pre-clinically is of high value. In this model, cells are directly implanted into the ventral lobe of the prostate in Balb/c athymic mice, and allowed to progress for 4-6 weeks. At experiment termination, several distinct endpoints can be measured, such as size and molecular characterization of the primary tumor, the presence and quantification of circulating tumor cells in the blood and bone marrow, and formation of metastasis to the lung. In addition to a variety of endpoints, this model provides a picture of a cells ability to invade and escape the primary organ, enter and survive in the circulatory system, and implant and grow in a secondary site. This model has been used effectively to measure metastatic response to both changes in protein expression as well as to response to small molecule therapeutics, in a short turnaround time.
Medicine, Issue 79, Urogenital System, Male Urogenital Diseases, Surgical Procedures, Operative, Life Sciences (General), Prostate Cancer, Metastasis, Mouse Model, Drug Discovery, Molecular Biology
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High-throughput Fluorometric Measurement of Potential Soil Extracellular Enzyme Activities
Authors: Colin W. Bell, Barbara E. Fricks, Jennifer D. Rocca, Jessica M. Steinweg, Shawna K. McMahon, Matthew D. Wallenstein.
Institutions: Colorado State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Colorado.
Microbes in soils and other environments produce extracellular enzymes to depolymerize and hydrolyze organic macromolecules so that they can be assimilated for energy and nutrients. Measuring soil microbial enzyme activity is crucial in understanding soil ecosystem functional dynamics. The general concept of the fluorescence enzyme assay is that synthetic C-, N-, or P-rich substrates bound with a fluorescent dye are added to soil samples. When intact, the labeled substrates do not fluoresce. Enzyme activity is measured as the increase in fluorescence as the fluorescent dyes are cleaved from their substrates, which allows them to fluoresce. Enzyme measurements can be expressed in units of molarity or activity. To perform this assay, soil slurries are prepared by combining soil with a pH buffer. The pH buffer (typically a 50 mM sodium acetate or 50 mM Tris buffer), is chosen for the buffer's particular acid dissociation constant (pKa) to best match the soil sample pH. The soil slurries are inoculated with a nonlimiting amount of fluorescently labeled (i.e. C-, N-, or P-rich) substrate. Using soil slurries in the assay serves to minimize limitations on enzyme and substrate diffusion. Therefore, this assay controls for differences in substrate limitation, diffusion rates, and soil pH conditions; thus detecting potential enzyme activity rates as a function of the difference in enzyme concentrations (per sample). Fluorescence enzyme assays are typically more sensitive than spectrophotometric (i.e. colorimetric) assays, but can suffer from interference caused by impurities and the instability of many fluorescent compounds when exposed to light; so caution is required when handling fluorescent substrates. Likewise, this method only assesses potential enzyme activities under laboratory conditions when substrates are not limiting. Caution should be used when interpreting the data representing cross-site comparisons with differing temperatures or soil types, as in situ soil type and temperature can influence enzyme kinetics.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 81, Ecological and Environmental Phenomena, Environment, Biochemistry, Environmental Microbiology, Soil Microbiology, Ecology, Eukaryota, Archaea, Bacteria, Soil extracellular enzyme activities (EEAs), fluorometric enzyme assays, substrate degradation, 4-methylumbelliferone (MUB), 7-amino-4-methylcoumarin (MUC), enzyme temperature kinetics, soil
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Easy Measurement of Diffusion Coefficients of EGFP-tagged Plasma Membrane Proteins Using k-Space Image Correlation Spectroscopy
Authors: Eva C. Arnspang, Jennifer S. Koffman, Saw Marlar, Paul W. Wiseman, Lene N. Nejsum.
Institutions: Aarhus University, McGill University.
Lateral diffusion and compartmentalization of plasma membrane proteins are tightly regulated in cells and thus, studying these processes will reveal new insights to plasma membrane protein function and regulation. Recently, k-Space Image Correlation Spectroscopy (kICS)1 was developed to enable routine measurements of diffusion coefficients directly from images of fluorescently tagged plasma membrane proteins, that avoided systematic biases introduced by probe photophysics. Although the theoretical basis for the analysis is complex, the method can be implemented by nonexperts using a freely available code to measure diffusion coefficients of proteins. kICS calculates a time correlation function from a fluorescence microscopy image stack after Fourier transformation of each image to reciprocal (k-) space. Subsequently, circular averaging, natural logarithm transform and linear fits to the correlation function yields the diffusion coefficient. This paper provides a step-by-step guide to the image analysis and measurement of diffusion coefficients via kICS. First, a high frame rate image sequence of a fluorescently labeled plasma membrane protein is acquired using a fluorescence microscope. Then, a region of interest (ROI) avoiding intracellular organelles, moving vesicles or protruding membrane regions is selected. The ROI stack is imported into a freely available code and several defined parameters (see Method section) are set for kICS analysis. The program then generates a "slope of slopes" plot from the k-space time correlation functions, and the diffusion coefficient is calculated from the slope of the plot. Below is a step-by-step kICS procedure to measure the diffusion coefficient of a membrane protein using the renal water channel aquaporin-3 tagged with EGFP as a canonical example.
Biophysics, Issue 87, Amino Acids, Peptides and Proteins, Computer Programming and Software, Diffusion coefficient, Aquaporin-3, k-Space Image Correlation Spectroscopy, Analysis
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Design and Operation of a Continuous 13C and 15N Labeling Chamber for Uniform or Differential, Metabolic and Structural, Plant Isotope Labeling
Authors: Jennifer L Soong, Dan Reuss, Colin Pinney, Ty Boyack, Michelle L Haddix, Catherine E Stewart, M. Francesca Cotrufo.
Institutions: Colorado State University, USDA-ARS, Colorado State University.
Tracing rare stable isotopes from plant material through the ecosystem provides the most sensitive information about ecosystem processes; from CO2 fluxes and soil organic matter formation to small-scale stable-isotope biomarker probing. Coupling multiple stable isotopes such as 13C with 15N, 18O or 2H has the potential to reveal even more information about complex stoichiometric relationships during biogeochemical transformations. Isotope labeled plant material has been used in various studies of litter decomposition and soil organic matter formation1-4. From these and other studies, however, it has become apparent that structural components of plant material behave differently than metabolic components (i.e. leachable low molecular weight compounds) in terms of microbial utilization and long-term carbon storage5-7. The ability to study structural and metabolic components separately provides a powerful new tool for advancing the forefront of ecosystem biogeochemical studies. Here we describe a method for producing 13C and 15N labeled plant material that is either uniformly labeled throughout the plant or differentially labeled in structural and metabolic plant components. Here, we present the construction and operation of a continuous 13C and 15N labeling chamber that can be modified to meet various research needs. Uniformly labeled plant material is produced by continuous labeling from seedling to harvest, while differential labeling is achieved by removing the growing plants from the chamber weeks prior to harvest. Representative results from growing Andropogon gerardii Kaw demonstrate the system's ability to efficiently label plant material at the targeted levels. Through this method we have produced plant material with a 4.4 atom%13C and 6.7 atom%15N uniform plant label, or material that is differentially labeled by up to 1.29 atom%13C and 0.56 atom%15N in its metabolic and structural components (hot water extractable and hot water residual components, respectively). Challenges lie in maintaining proper temperature, humidity, CO2 concentration, and light levels in an airtight 13C-CO2 atmosphere for successful plant production. This chamber description represents a useful research tool to effectively produce uniformly or differentially multi-isotope labeled plant material for use in experiments on ecosystem biogeochemical cycling.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 83, 13C, 15N, plant, stable isotope labeling, Andropogon gerardii, metabolic compounds, structural compounds, hot water extraction
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Characterization of Complex Systems Using the Design of Experiments Approach: Transient Protein Expression in Tobacco as a Case Study
Authors: Johannes Felix Buyel, Rainer Fischer.
Institutions: RWTH Aachen University, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.
Plants provide multiple benefits for the production of biopharmaceuticals including low costs, scalability, and safety. Transient expression offers the additional advantage of short development and production times, but expression levels can vary significantly between batches thus giving rise to regulatory concerns in the context of good manufacturing practice. We used a design of experiments (DoE) approach to determine the impact of major factors such as regulatory elements in the expression construct, plant growth and development parameters, and the incubation conditions during expression, on the variability of expression between batches. We tested plants expressing a model anti-HIV monoclonal antibody (2G12) and a fluorescent marker protein (DsRed). We discuss the rationale for selecting certain properties of the model and identify its potential limitations. The general approach can easily be transferred to other problems because the principles of the model are broadly applicable: knowledge-based parameter selection, complexity reduction by splitting the initial problem into smaller modules, software-guided setup of optimal experiment combinations and step-wise design augmentation. Therefore, the methodology is not only useful for characterizing protein expression in plants but also for the investigation of other complex systems lacking a mechanistic description. The predictive equations describing the interconnectivity between parameters can be used to establish mechanistic models for other complex systems.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, design of experiments (DoE), transient protein expression, plant-derived biopharmaceuticals, promoter, 5'UTR, fluorescent reporter protein, model building, incubation conditions, monoclonal antibody
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A Technique to Screen American Beech for Resistance to the Beech Scale Insect (Cryptococcus fagisuga Lind.)
Authors: Jennifer L. Koch, David W. Carey.
Institutions: US Forest Service.
Beech bark disease (BBD) results in high levels of initial mortality, leaving behind survivor trees that are greatly weakened and deformed. The disease is initiated by feeding activities of the invasive beech scale insect, Cryptococcus fagisuga, which creates entry points for infection by one of the Neonectria species of fungus. Without scale infestation, there is little opportunity for fungal infection. Using scale eggs to artificially infest healthy trees in heavily BBD impacted stands demonstrated that these trees were resistant to the scale insect portion of the disease complex1. Here we present a protocol that we have developed, based on the artificial infestation technique by Houston2, which can be used to screen for scale-resistant trees in the field and in smaller potted seedlings and grafts. The identification of scale-resistant trees is an important component of management of BBD through tree improvement programs and silvicultural manipulation.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 87, Forestry, Insects, Disease Resistance, American beech, Fagus grandifolia, beech scale, Cryptococcus fagisuga, resistance, screen, bioassay
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Design and Construction of an Urban Runoff Research Facility
Authors: Benjamin G. Wherley, Richard H. White, Kevin J. McInnes, Charles H. Fontanier, James C. Thomas, Jacqueline A. Aitkenhead-Peterson, Steven T. Kelly.
Institutions: Texas A&M University, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company.
As the urban population increases, so does the area of irrigated urban landscape. Summer water use in urban areas can be 2-3x winter base line water use due to increased demand for landscape irrigation. Improper irrigation practices and large rainfall events can result in runoff from urban landscapes which has potential to carry nutrients and sediments into local streams and lakes where they may contribute to eutrophication. A 1,000 m2 facility was constructed which consists of 24 individual 33.6 m2 field plots, each equipped for measuring total runoff volumes with time and collection of runoff subsamples at selected intervals for quantification of chemical constituents in the runoff water from simulated urban landscapes. Runoff volumes from the first and second trials had coefficient of variability (CV) values of 38.2 and 28.7%, respectively. CV values for runoff pH, EC, and Na concentration for both trials were all under 10%. Concentrations of DOC, TDN, DON, PO4-P, K+, Mg2+, and Ca2+ had CV values less than 50% in both trials. Overall, the results of testing performed after sod installation at the facility indicated good uniformity between plots for runoff volumes and chemical constituents. The large plot size is sufficient to include much of the natural variability and therefore provides better simulation of urban landscape ecosystems.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 90, urban runoff, landscapes, home lawns, turfgrass, St. Augustinegrass, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sodium
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Experimental Protocol for Manipulating Plant-induced Soil Heterogeneity
Authors: Angela J. Brandt, Gaston A. del Pino, Jean H. Burns.
Institutions: Case Western Reserve University.
Coexistence theory has often treated environmental heterogeneity as being independent of the community composition; however biotic feedbacks such as plant-soil feedbacks (PSF) have large effects on plant performance, and create environmental heterogeneity that depends on the community composition. Understanding the importance of PSF for plant community assembly necessitates understanding of the role of heterogeneity in PSF, in addition to mean PSF effects. Here, we describe a protocol for manipulating plant-induced soil heterogeneity. Two example experiments are presented: (1) a field experiment with a 6-patch grid of soils to measure plant population responses and (2) a greenhouse experiment with 2-patch soils to measure individual plant responses. Soils can be collected from the zone of root influence (soils from the rhizosphere and directly adjacent to the rhizosphere) of plants in the field from conspecific and heterospecific plant species. Replicate collections are used to avoid pseudoreplicating soil samples. These soils are then placed into separate patches for heterogeneous treatments or mixed for a homogenized treatment. Care should be taken to ensure that heterogeneous and homogenized treatments experience the same degree of soil disturbance. Plants can then be placed in these soil treatments to determine the effect of plant-induced soil heterogeneity on plant performance. We demonstrate that plant-induced heterogeneity results in different outcomes than predicted by traditional coexistence models, perhaps because of the dynamic nature of these feedbacks. Theory that incorporates environmental heterogeneity influenced by the assembling community and additional empirical work is needed to determine when heterogeneity intrinsic to the assembling community will result in different assembly outcomes compared with heterogeneity extrinsic to the community composition.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 85, Coexistence, community assembly, environmental drivers, plant-soil feedback, soil heterogeneity, soil microbial communities, soil patch
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Using Insect Electroantennogram Sensors on Autonomous Robots for Olfactory Searches
Authors: Dominique Martinez, Lotfi Arhidi, Elodie Demondion, Jean-Baptiste Masson, Philippe Lucas.
Institutions: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Institut d'Ecologie et des Sciences de l'Environnement de Paris, Institut Pasteur.
Robots designed to track chemical leaks in hazardous industrial facilities1 or explosive traces in landmine fields2 face the same problem as insects foraging for food or searching for mates3: the olfactory search is constrained by the physics of turbulent transport4. The concentration landscape of wind borne odors is discontinuous and consists of sporadically located patches. A pre-requisite to olfactory search is that intermittent odor patches are detected. Because of its high speed and sensitivity5-6, the olfactory organ of insects provides a unique opportunity for detection. Insect antennae have been used in the past to detect not only sex pheromones7 but also chemicals that are relevant to humans, e.g., volatile compounds emanating from cancer cells8 or toxic and illicit substances9-11. We describe here a protocol for using insect antennae on autonomous robots and present a proof of concept for tracking odor plumes to their source. The global response of olfactory neurons is recorded in situ in the form of electroantennograms (EAGs). Our experimental design, based on a whole insect preparation, allows stable recordings within a working day. In comparison, EAGs on excised antennae have a lifetime of 2 hr. A custom hardware/software interface was developed between the EAG electrodes and a robot. The measurement system resolves individual odor patches up to 10 Hz, which exceeds the time scale of artificial chemical sensors12. The efficiency of EAG sensors for olfactory searches is further demonstrated in driving the robot toward a source of pheromone. By using identical olfactory stimuli and sensors as in real animals, our robotic platform provides a direct means for testing biological hypotheses about olfactory coding and search strategies13. It may also prove beneficial for detecting other odorants of interests by combining EAGs from different insect species in a bioelectronic nose configuration14 or using nanostructured gas sensors that mimic insect antennae15.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, robotics, electroantennogram, EAG, gas sensor, electronic nose, olfactory search, surge and casting, moth, insect, olfaction, neuron
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Multimodal Optical Microscopy Methods Reveal Polyp Tissue Morphology and Structure in Caribbean Reef Building Corals
Authors: Mayandi Sivaguru, Glenn A. Fried, Carly A. H. Miller, Bruce W. Fouke.
Institutions: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
An integrated suite of imaging techniques has been applied to determine the three-dimensional (3D) morphology and cellular structure of polyp tissues comprising the Caribbean reef building corals Montastraeaannularis and M. faveolata. These approaches include fluorescence microscopy (FM), serial block face imaging (SBFI), and two-photon confocal laser scanning microscopy (TPLSM). SBFI provides deep tissue imaging after physical sectioning; it details the tissue surface texture and 3D visualization to tissue depths of more than 2 mm. Complementary FM and TPLSM yield ultra-high resolution images of tissue cellular structure. Results have: (1) identified previously unreported lobate tissue morphologies on the outer wall of individual coral polyps and (2) created the first surface maps of the 3D distribution and tissue density of chromatophores and algae-like dinoflagellate zooxanthellae endosymbionts. Spectral absorption peaks of 500 nm and 675 nm, respectively, suggest that M. annularis and M. faveolata contain similar types of chlorophyll and chromatophores. However, M. annularis and M. faveolata exhibit significant differences in the tissue density and 3D distribution of these key cellular components. This study focusing on imaging methods indicates that SBFI is extremely useful for analysis of large mm-scale samples of decalcified coral tissues. Complimentary FM and TPLSM reveal subtle submillimeter scale changes in cellular distribution and density in nondecalcified coral tissue samples. The TPLSM technique affords: (1) minimally invasive sample preparation, (2) superior optical sectioning ability, and (3) minimal light absorption and scattering, while still permitting deep tissue imaging.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 91, Serial block face imaging, two-photon fluorescence microscopy, Montastraea annularis, Montastraea faveolata, 3D coral tissue morphology and structure, zooxanthellae, chromatophore, autofluorescence, light harvesting optimization, environmental change
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Simultaneous Multicolor Imaging of Biological Structures with Fluorescence Photoactivation Localization Microscopy
Authors: Nikki M. Curthoys, Michael J. Mlodzianoski, Dahan Kim, Samuel T. Hess.
Institutions: University of Maine.
Localization-based super resolution microscopy can be applied to obtain a spatial map (image) of the distribution of individual fluorescently labeled single molecules within a sample with a spatial resolution of tens of nanometers. Using either photoactivatable (PAFP) or photoswitchable (PSFP) fluorescent proteins fused to proteins of interest, or organic dyes conjugated to antibodies or other molecules of interest, fluorescence photoactivation localization microscopy (FPALM) can simultaneously image multiple species of molecules within single cells. By using the following approach, populations of large numbers (thousands to hundreds of thousands) of individual molecules are imaged in single cells and localized with a precision of ~10-30 nm. Data obtained can be applied to understanding the nanoscale spatial distributions of multiple protein types within a cell. One primary advantage of this technique is the dramatic increase in spatial resolution: while diffraction limits resolution to ~200-250 nm in conventional light microscopy, FPALM can image length scales more than an order of magnitude smaller. As many biological hypotheses concern the spatial relationships among different biomolecules, the improved resolution of FPALM can provide insight into questions of cellular organization which have previously been inaccessible to conventional fluorescence microscopy. In addition to detailing the methods for sample preparation and data acquisition, we here describe the optical setup for FPALM. One additional consideration for researchers wishing to do super-resolution microscopy is cost: in-house setups are significantly cheaper than most commercially available imaging machines. Limitations of this technique include the need for optimizing the labeling of molecules of interest within cell samples, and the need for post-processing software to visualize results. We here describe the use of PAFP and PSFP expression to image two protein species in fixed cells. Extension of the technique to living cells is also described.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, Microscopy, Super-resolution imaging, Multicolor, single molecule, FPALM, Localization microscopy, fluorescent proteins
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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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A Laser-induced Mouse Model of Chronic Ocular Hypertension to Characterize Visual Defects
Authors: Liang Feng, Hui Chen, Genn Suyeoka, Xiaorong Liu.
Institutions: Northwestern University, Northwestern University.
Glaucoma, frequently associated with elevated intraocular pressure (IOP), is one of the leading causes of blindness. We sought to establish a mouse model of ocular hypertension to mimic human high-tension glaucoma. Here laser illumination is applied to the corneal limbus to photocoagulate the aqueous outflow, inducing angle closure. The changes of IOP are monitored using a rebound tonometer before and after the laser treatment. An optomotor behavioral test is used to measure corresponding changes in visual capacity. The representative result from one mouse which developed sustained IOP elevation after laser illumination is shown. A decreased visual acuity and contrast sensitivity is observed in this ocular hypertensive mouse. Together, our study introduces a valuable model system to investigate neuronal degeneration and the underlying molecular mechanisms in glaucomatous mice.
Medicine, Issue 78, Biomedical Engineering, Neurobiology, Anatomy, Physiology, Neuroscience, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Ophthalmology, Retinal Neurons, Retinal Neurons, Retinal Ganglion Cells, Neurodegenerative Diseases, Ocular Hypertension, Retinal Degeneration, Vision Tests, Visual Acuity, Eye Diseases, Retinal Ganglion Cell (RGC), Ocular Hypertension, Laser Photocoagulation, Intraocular pressure (IOP), Tonometer; Visual Acuity, Contrast Sensitivity, Optomotor, animal model
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Protocol for Culturing Sympathetic Neurons from Rat Superior Cervical Ganglia (SCG)
Authors: Neela Zareen, Lloyd A. Greene.
Institutions: Columbia University, Columbia University.
The superior cervical ganglia (SCG) in rats are small, glossy, almond-shaped structures that contain sympathetic neurons. These neurons provide sympathetic innervations for the head and neck regions and they constitute a well-characterized and relatively homogeneous population (4). Sympathetic neurons are dependent on nerve growth factor (NGF) for survival, differentiation and axonal growth and the wide-spread availability of NGF facilitates their culture and experimental manipulation (2, 3, 6). For these reasons, cultured sympathetic neurons have been used in a wide variety of studies including neuronal development and differentiation, mechanisms of programmed and pathological cell death, and signal transduction (1, 2, 5, and 6). Dissecting out the SCG from newborn rats and culturing sympathetic neurons is not very complicated and can be mastered fairly quickly. In this article, we will describe in detail how to dissect out the SCG from newborn rat pups and to use them to establish cultures of sympathetic neurons. The article will also describe the preparatory steps and the various reagents and equipment that are needed to achieve this.
Neuroscience, Issue 23, SCG, sympathetic neurons, primary neuronal culture, NGF, trophic factor, apoptosis, programmed cell death
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Implantation of Engineered Tissue in the Rat Heart
Authors: Bjoern Sill, Ivan V. Alpatov, Christina A. Pacak, Douglas B. Cowan.
Institutions: Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, Children’s Hospital Boston.
Rodent surgery is often an important component in assessing the utility of engineered tissues. A wide variety of surgical procedures can be performed in common laboratory rats or mice and these quite frequently serve as an intermediate step between bench-top experiments and large animal testing or human trials. Given that rodents provide an established, cost-effective, and physiologically-relevant model system in which to test novel combinations of scaffolding materials and cells, they are particularly well-suited for cardiovascular tissue engineering studies. Presently, we describe an open-heart surgical procedure to implant engineered tissue containing myogenic progenitor cells in the atrioventricular (AV) groove of a rat heart. These implants are intended to create an electrical conduit between the right atrium and right ventricle with the ultimate goal of providing an alternative treatment to conventional pacemaker implantation in pediatric patients with complete heart block[1]. The engineered tissue is implanted in the AV-groove by means of a thoracotomy. For our purposes, Lewis rats are anesthetized and invasively ventilated to maintain positive airway pressure during the sterile surgical procedure. The approach to the heart is performed by a right thoracotomy through an antero-lateral incision at the 5th intercostal space. The tissue construct is fixed in the AV groove using a single 7-0 Prolene suture and positioned between the right ventricle and atrium at the ventral portion of the heart. The epicardium is partially removed to allow direct contact between the recipient myocardial cells and those contained in the engineered tissue. Following implantation, the chest wall is closed in layers, any pneumothorax is evacuated, and the animal is extubated and treated with analgesic.
Cellular Biology, Issue 28, thoracotomy, rodent surgery, anesthesia, atrioventricular, cardiac, tissue engineering, intubation
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Generating Chimeric Zebrafish Embryos by Transplantation
Authors: Hilary A. Kemp, Amanda Carmany-Rampey, Cecilia Moens.
Institutions: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center - FHCRC.
One of the most powerful tools used to gain insight into complex developmental processes is the analysis of chimeric embryos. A chimera is defined as an organism that contains cells from more than one animal; mosaics are one type of chimera in which cells from more than one genotype are mixed, usually wild-type and mutant. In the zebrafish, chimeras can be readily made by transplantation of cells from a donor embryo into a host embryo at the appropriate embryonic stage. Labeled donor cells are generated by injection of a lineage marker, such as a fluorescent dye, into the one-cell stage embryo. Labeled donor cells are removed from donor embryos and introduced into unlabeled host embryos using an oil-controlled glass pipette mounted on either a compound or dissecting microscope. Donor cells can in some cases be targeted to a specific region or tissue of the developing blastula or gastrula stage host embryo by choosing a transplantation site in the host embryo based on well-established fate maps.
Developmental Biology, Issue 29, development, mosaic analysis, chimera, zebrafish embryo, gastrula, blastula, targeted, transplantation
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Extraction of High Molecular Weight Genomic DNA from Soils and Sediments
Authors: Sangwon Lee, Steven J. Hallam.
Institutions: University of British Columbia - UBC.
The soil microbiome is a vast and relatively unexplored reservoir of genomic diversity and metabolic innovation that is intimately associated with nutrient and energy flow within terrestrial ecosystems. Cultivation-independent environmental genomic, also known as metagenomic, approaches promise unprecedented access to this genetic information with respect to pathway reconstruction and functional screening for high value therapeutic and biomass conversion processes. However, the soil microbiome still remains a challenge largely due to the difficulty in obtaining high molecular weight DNA of sufficient quality for large insert library production. Here we introduce a protocol for extracting high molecular weight, microbial community genomic DNA from soils and sediments. The quality of isolated genomic DNA is ideal for constructing large insert environmental genomic libraries for downstream sequencing and screening applications. The procedure starts with cell lysis. Cell walls and membranes of microbes are lysed by both mechanical (grinding) and chemical forces (β-mercaptoethanol). Genomic DNA is then isolated using extraction buffer, chloroform-isoamyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol. The buffers employed for the lysis and extraction steps include guanidine isothiocyanate and hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) to preserve the integrity of the high molecular weight genomic DNA. Depending on your downstream application, the isolated genomic DNA can be further purified using cesium chloride (CsCl) gradient ultracentrifugation, which reduces impurities including humic acids. The first procedure, extraction, takes approximately 8 hours, excluding DNA quantification step. The CsCl gradient ultracentrifugation, is a two days process. During the entire procedure, genomic DNA should be treated gently to prevent shearing, avoid severe vortexing, and repetitive harsh pipetting.
Microbiology, Issue 33, Environmental DNA, high molecular weight genomic DNA, DNA extraction, soil, sediments
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A Method for Ovarian Follicle Encapsulation and Culture in a Proteolytically Degradable 3 Dimensional System
Authors: Ariella Shikanov, Min Xu, Teresa K. Woodruff, Lonnie D. Shea.
Institutions: Northwestern University, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Northwestern University, Northwestern University.
The ovarian follicle is the functional unit of the ovary that secretes sex hormones and supports oocyte maturation. In vitro follicle techniques provide a tool to model follicle development in order to investigate basic biology, and are further being developed as a technique to preserve fertility in the clinic1-4. Our in vitro culture system employs hydrogels in order to mimic the native ovarian environment by maintaining the 3D follicular architecture, cell-cell interactions and paracrine signaling that direct follicle development 5. Previously, follicles were successfully cultured in alginate, an inert algae-derived polysaccharide that undergoes gelation with calcium ions6-8. Alginate hydrogels formed at a concentration of 0.25% w/v were the most permissive for follicle culture, and retained the highest developmental competence 9. Alginate hydrogels are not degradable, thus an increase in the follicle diameter results in a compressive force on the follicle that can impact follicle growth10. We subsequently developed a culture system based on a fibrin-alginate interpenetrating network (FA-IPN), in which a mixture of fibrin and alginate are gelled simultaneously. This combination provides a dynamic mechanical environment because both components contribute to matrix rigidity initially; however, proteases secreted by the growing follicle degrade fibrin in the matrix leaving only alginate to provide support. With the IPN, the alginate content can be reduced below 0.25%, which is not possible with alginate alone 5. Thus, as the follicle expands, it will experience a reduced compressive force due to the reduced solids content. Herein, we describe an encapsulation method and an in vitro culture system for ovarian follicles within a FA-IPN. The dynamic mechanical environment mimics the natural ovarian environment in which small follicles reside in a rigid cortex and move to a more permissive medulla as they increase in size11. The degradable component may be particularly critical for clinical translation in order to support the greater than 106-fold increase in volume that human follicles normally undergo in vivo .
Bioengineering, Issue 49, Ovarian follicle, fibrin-alginate, 3D culture system, dynamic environment
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Analysis of Dendritic Spine Morphology in Cultured CNS Neurons
Authors: Deepak P. Srivastava, Kevin M. Woolfrey, Peter Penzes.
Institutions: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Dendritic spines are the sites of the majority of excitatory connections within the brain, and form the post-synaptic compartment of synapses. These structures are rich in actin and have been shown to be highly dynamic. In response to classical Hebbian plasticity as well as neuromodulatory signals, dendritic spines can change shape and number, which is thought to be critical for the refinement of neural circuits and the processing and storage of information within the brain. Within dendritic spines, a complex network of proteins link extracellular signals with the actin cyctoskeleton allowing for control of dendritic spine morphology and number. Neuropathological studies have demonstrated that a number of disease states, ranging from schizophrenia to autism spectrum disorders, display abnormal dendritic spine morphology or numbers. Moreover, recent genetic studies have identified mutations in numerous genes that encode synaptic proteins, leading to suggestions that these proteins may contribute to aberrant spine plasticity that, in part, underlie the pathophysiology of these disorders. In order to study the potential role of these proteins in controlling dendritic spine morphologies/number, the use of cultured cortical neurons offers several advantages. Firstly, this system allows for high-resolution imaging of dendritic spines in fixed cells as well as time-lapse imaging of live cells. Secondly, this in vitro system allows for easy manipulation of protein function by expression of mutant proteins, knockdown by shRNA constructs, or pharmacological treatments. These techniques allow researchers to begin to dissect the role of disease-associated proteins and to predict how mutations of these proteins may function in vivo.
Neuroscience, Issue 53, Excitatory synapse, neuroscience, brain, cortex, cortical neurons, primary culture, confocal microscopy, time-lapse imaging, remodeling.
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Aseptic Laboratory Techniques: Plating Methods
Authors: Erin R. Sanders.
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles .
Microorganisms are present on all inanimate surfaces creating ubiquitous sources of possible contamination in the laboratory. Experimental success relies on the ability of a scientist to sterilize work surfaces and equipment as well as prevent contact of sterile instruments and solutions with non-sterile surfaces. Here we present the steps for several plating methods routinely used in the laboratory to isolate, propagate, or enumerate microorganisms such as bacteria and phage. All five methods incorporate aseptic technique, or procedures that maintain the sterility of experimental materials. Procedures described include (1) streak-plating bacterial cultures to isolate single colonies, (2) pour-plating and (3) spread-plating to enumerate viable bacterial colonies, (4) soft agar overlays to isolate phage and enumerate plaques, and (5) replica-plating to transfer cells from one plate to another in an identical spatial pattern. These procedures can be performed at the laboratory bench, provided they involve non-pathogenic strains of microorganisms (Biosafety Level 1, BSL-1). If working with BSL-2 organisms, then these manipulations must take place in a biosafety cabinet. Consult the most current edition of the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) as well as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for Infectious Substances to determine the biohazard classification as well as the safety precautions and containment facilities required for the microorganism in question. Bacterial strains and phage stocks can be obtained from research investigators, companies, and collections maintained by particular organizations such as the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC). It is recommended that non-pathogenic strains be used when learning the various plating methods. By following the procedures described in this protocol, students should be able to: ● Perform plating procedures without contaminating media. ● Isolate single bacterial colonies by the streak-plating method. ● Use pour-plating and spread-plating methods to determine the concentration of bacteria. ● Perform soft agar overlays when working with phage. ● Transfer bacterial cells from one plate to another using the replica-plating procedure. ● Given an experimental task, select the appropriate plating method.
Basic Protocols, Issue 63, Streak plates, pour plates, soft agar overlays, spread plates, replica plates, bacteria, colonies, phage, plaques, dilutions
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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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Linking Predation Risk, Herbivore Physiological Stress and Microbial Decomposition of Plant Litter
Authors: Oswald J. Schmitz, Mark A. Bradford, Michael S. Strickland, Dror Hawlena.
Institutions: Yale University, Virginia Tech, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The quantity and quality of detritus entering the soil determines the rate of decomposition by microbial communities as well as recycle rates of nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) sequestration1,2. Plant litter comprises the majority of detritus3, and so it is assumed that decomposition is only marginally influenced by biomass inputs from animals such as herbivores and carnivores4,5. However, carnivores may influence microbial decomposition of plant litter via a chain of interactions in which predation risk alters the physiology of their herbivore prey that in turn alters soil microbial functioning when the herbivore carcasses are decomposed6. A physiological stress response by herbivores to the risk of predation can change the C:N elemental composition of herbivore biomass7,8,9 because stress from predation risk increases herbivore basal energy demands that in nutrient-limited systems forces herbivores to shift their consumption from N-rich resources to support growth and reproduction to C-rich carbohydrate resources to support heightened metabolism6. Herbivores have limited ability to store excess nutrients, so stressed herbivores excrete N as they increase carbohydrate-C consumption7. Ultimately, prey stressed by predation risk increase their body C:N ratio7,10, making them poorer quality resources for the soil microbial pool likely due to lower availability of labile N for microbial enzyme production6. Thus, decomposition of carcasses of stressed herbivores has a priming effect on the functioning of microbial communities that decreases subsequent ability to of microbes to decompose plant litter6,10,11. We present the methodology to evaluate linkages between predation risk and litter decomposition by soil microbes. We describe how to: induce stress in herbivores from predation risk; measure those stress responses, and measure the consequences on microbial decomposition. We use insights from a model grassland ecosystem comprising the hunting spider predator (Pisuarina mira), a dominant grasshopper herbivore (Melanoplus femurrubrum),and a variety of grass and forb plants9.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 73, Microbiology, Plant Biology, Entomology, Organisms, Investigative Techniques, Biological Phenomena, Chemical Phenomena, Metabolic Phenomena, Microbiological Phenomena, Earth Resources and Remote Sensing, Life Sciences (General), Litter Decomposition, Ecological Stoichiometry, Physiological Stress and Ecosystem Function, Predation Risk, Soil Respiration, Carbon Sequestration, Soil Science, respiration, spider, grasshoper, model system
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Fabrication of Nano-engineered Transparent Conducting Oxides by Pulsed Laser Deposition
Authors: Paolo Gondoni, Matteo Ghidelli, Fabio Di Fonzo, Andrea Li Bassi, Carlo S. Casari.
Institutions: Politecnico di Milano, Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia.
Nanosecond Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) in the presence of a background gas allows the deposition of metal oxides with tunable morphology, structure, density and stoichiometry by a proper control of the plasma plume expansion dynamics. Such versatility can be exploited to produce nanostructured films from compact and dense to nanoporous characterized by a hierarchical assembly of nano-sized clusters. In particular we describe the detailed methodology to fabricate two types of Al-doped ZnO (AZO) films as transparent electrodes in photovoltaic devices: 1) at low O2 pressure, compact films with electrical conductivity and optical transparency close to the state of the art transparent conducting oxides (TCO) can be deposited at room temperature, to be compatible with thermally sensitive materials such as polymers used in organic photovoltaics (OPVs); 2) highly light scattering hierarchical structures resembling a forest of nano-trees are produced at higher pressures. Such structures show high Haze factor (>80%) and may be exploited to enhance the light trapping capability. The method here described for AZO films can be applied to other metal oxides relevant for technological applications such as TiO2, Al2O3, WO3 and Ag4O4.
Materials Science, Issue 72, Physics, Nanotechnology, Nanoengineering, Oxides, thin films, thin film theory, deposition and growth, Pulsed laser Deposition (PLD), Transparent conducting oxides (TCO), Hierarchically organized Nanostructured oxides, Al doped ZnO (AZO) films, enhanced light scattering capability, gases, deposition, nanoporus, nanoparticles, Van der Pauw, scanning electron microscopy, SEM
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Spatial Multiobjective Optimization of Agricultural Conservation Practices using a SWAT Model and an Evolutionary Algorithm
Authors: Sergey Rabotyagov, Todd Campbell, Adriana Valcu, Philip Gassman, Manoj Jha, Keith Schilling, Calvin Wolter, Catherine Kling.
Institutions: University of Washington, Iowa State University, North Carolina A&T University, Iowa Geological and Water Survey.
Finding the cost-efficient (i.e., lowest-cost) ways of targeting conservation practice investments for the achievement of specific water quality goals across the landscape is of primary importance in watershed management. Traditional economics methods of finding the lowest-cost solution in the watershed context (e.g.,5,12,20) assume that off-site impacts can be accurately described as a proportion of on-site pollution generated. Such approaches are unlikely to be representative of the actual pollution process in a watershed, where the impacts of polluting sources are often determined by complex biophysical processes. The use of modern physically-based, spatially distributed hydrologic simulation models allows for a greater degree of realism in terms of process representation but requires a development of a simulation-optimization framework where the model becomes an integral part of optimization. Evolutionary algorithms appear to be a particularly useful optimization tool, able to deal with the combinatorial nature of a watershed simulation-optimization problem and allowing the use of the full water quality model. Evolutionary algorithms treat a particular spatial allocation of conservation practices in a watershed as a candidate solution and utilize sets (populations) of candidate solutions iteratively applying stochastic operators of selection, recombination, and mutation to find improvements with respect to the optimization objectives. The optimization objectives in this case are to minimize nonpoint-source pollution in the watershed, simultaneously minimizing the cost of conservation practices. A recent and expanding set of research is attempting to use similar methods and integrates water quality models with broadly defined evolutionary optimization methods3,4,9,10,13-15,17-19,22,23,25. In this application, we demonstrate a program which follows Rabotyagov et al.'s approach and integrates a modern and commonly used SWAT water quality model7 with a multiobjective evolutionary algorithm SPEA226, and user-specified set of conservation practices and their costs to search for the complete tradeoff frontiers between costs of conservation practices and user-specified water quality objectives. The frontiers quantify the tradeoffs faced by the watershed managers by presenting the full range of costs associated with various water quality improvement goals. The program allows for a selection of watershed configurations achieving specified water quality improvement goals and a production of maps of optimized placement of conservation practices.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 70, Plant Biology, Civil Engineering, Forest Sciences, Water quality, multiobjective optimization, evolutionary algorithms, cost efficiency, agriculture, development
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