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.
26 Related JoVE Articles!
Whole Cell Patch Clamp for Investigating the Mechanisms of Infrared Neural Stimulation
Institutions: Swinburne University of Technology, The University of Melbourne.
It has been demonstrated in recent years that pulsed, infrared laser light can be used to elicit electrical responses in neural tissue, independent of any further modification of the target tissue. Infrared neural stimulation has been reported in a variety of peripheral and sensory neural tissue in vivo
, with particular interest shown in stimulation of neurons in the auditory nerve. However, while INS has been shown to work in these settings, the mechanism (or mechanisms) by which infrared light causes neural excitation is currently not well understood. The protocol presented here describes a whole cell patch clamp method designed to facilitate the investigation of infrared neural stimulation in cultured primary auditory neurons. By thoroughly characterizing the response of these cells to infrared laser illumination in vitro
under controlled conditions, it may be possible to gain an improved understanding of the fundamental physical and biochemical processes underlying infrared neural stimulation.
Neuroscience, Issue 77, Biomedical Engineering, Neurobiology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Physiology, Primary Cell Culture, Biophysics, Electrophysiology, fiber optics, infrared neural stimulation, patch clamp, in vitro models, spiral ganglion neurons, neurons, patch clamp recordings, cell culture
Quasi-light Storage for Optical Data Packets
Institutions: Hochschule für Telekommunikation, Leipzig.
Today's telecommunication is based on optical packets which transmit the information in optical fiber networks around the world. Currently, the processing of the signals is done in the electrical domain. Direct storage in the optical domain would avoid the transfer of the packets to the electrical and back to the optical domain in every network node and, therefore, increase the speed and possibly reduce the energy consumption of telecommunications. However, light consists of photons which propagate with the speed of light in vacuum. Thus, the storage of light is a big challenge. There exist some methods to slow down the speed of the light, or to store it in excitations of a medium. However, these methods cannot be used for the storage of optical data packets used in telecommunications networks. Here we show how the time-frequency-coherence, which holds for every signal and therefore for optical packets as well, can be exploited to build an optical memory. We will review the background and show in detail and through examples, how a frequency comb can be used for the copying of an optical packet which enters the memory. One of these time domain copies is then extracted from the memory by a time domain switch. We will show this method for intensity as well as for phase modulated signals.
Physics, Issue 84, optical communications, Optical Light Storage, stimulated Brillouin scattering, Optical Signal Processing, optical data packets, telecommunications
In-situ Tapering of Chalcogenide Fiber for Mid-infrared Supercontinuum Generation
Institutions: Stanford University .
Supercontinuum generation (SCG) in a tapered chalcogenide fiber is desirable for broadening mid-infrared (or mid-IR, roughly the 2-20 μm wavelength range) frequency combs1, 2
for applications such as molecular fingerprinting, 3
trace gas detection, 4
laser-driven particle acceleration, 5
and x-ray production via high harmonic generation. 6
Achieving efficient SCG in a tapered optical fiber requires precise control of the group velocity dispersion (GVD) and the temporal properties of the optical pulses at the beginning of the fiber, 7
which depend strongly on the geometry of the taper. 8
Due to variations in the tapering setup and procedure for successive SCG experiments-such as fiber length, tapering environment temperature, or power coupled into the fiber, in-situ
spectral monitoring of the SCG is necessary to optimize the output spectrum for a single experiment.
fiber tapering for SCG consists of coupling the pump source through the fiber to be tapered to a spectral measurement device. The fiber is then tapered while the spectral measurement signal is observed in real-time. When the signal reaches its peak, the tapering is stopped. The in-situ
tapering procedure allows for generation of a stable, octave-spanning, mid-IR frequency comb from the sub harmonic of a commercially available near-IR frequency comb. 9
This method lowers cost due to the reduction in time and materials required to fabricate an optimal taper with a waist length of only 2 mm.
tapering technique can be extended to optimizing microstructured optical fiber (MOF) for SCG10
or tuning of the passband of MOFs, 11
optimizing tapered fiber pairs for fused fiber couplers12
and wavelength division multiplexers (WDMs), 13
or modifying dispersion compensation for compression or stretching of optical pulses.14-16
Physics, Issue 75, Engineering, Photonics, Optics, infrared spectra, nonlinear optics, optical fibers, optical waveguides, wave propagation (optics), fiber optics, infrared optics, fiber tapering, chalcogenide, supercontinuum generation, mid-infrared, in-situ, frequency comb, scanning electron microscopy, SEM
Pharmacologic Induction of Epidermal Melanin and Protection Against Sunburn in a Humanized Mouse Model
Institutions: University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Fairness of skin, UV sensitivity and skin cancer risk all correlate with the physiologic function of the melanocortin 1 receptor, a Gs
-coupled signaling protein found on the surface of melanocytes. Mc1r stimulates adenylyl cyclase and cAMP production which, in turn, up-regulates melanocytic production of melanin in the skin. In order to study the mechanisms by which Mc1r signaling protects the skin against UV injury, this study relies on a mouse model with "humanized skin" based on epidermal expression of stem cell factor (Scf). K14-Scf
transgenic mice retain melanocytes in the epidermis and therefore have the ability to deposit melanin in the epidermis. In this animal model, wild type Mc1r status results in robust deposition of black eumelanin pigment and a UV-protected phenotype. In contrast, K14-Scf
animals with defective Mc1r signaling ability exhibit a red/blonde pigmentation, very little eumelanin in the skin and a UV-sensitive phenotype. Reasoning that eumelanin deposition might be enhanced by topical agents that mimic Mc1r signaling, we found that direct application of forskolin extract to the skin of Mc1r-defective fair-skinned mice resulted in robust eumelanin induction and UV protection 1
. Here we describe the method for preparing and applying a forskolin-containing natural root extract to K14-Scf
fair-skinned mice and report a method for measuring UV sensitivity by determining minimal erythematous dose (MED). Using this animal model, it is possible to study how epidermal cAMP induction and melanization of the skin affect physiologic responses to UV exposure.
Medicine, Issue 79, Skin, Inflammation, Photometry, Ultraviolet Rays, Skin Pigmentation, melanocortin 1 receptor, Mc1r, forskolin, cAMP, mean erythematous dose, skin pigmentation, melanocyte, melanin, sunburn, UV, inflammation
Fabrication and Characterization of Disordered Polymer Optical Fibers for Transverse Anderson Localization of Light
Institutions: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Corning Incorporated, Corning, New York.
We develop and characterize a disordered polymer optical fiber that uses transverse Anderson localization as a novel waveguiding mechanism. The developed polymer optical fiber is composed of 80,000 strands of poly (methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and polystyrene (PS) that are randomly mixed and drawn into a square cross section optical fiber with a side width of 250 μm. Initially, each strand is 200 μm in diameter and 8-inches long. During the mixing process of the original fiber strands, the fibers cross over each other; however, a large draw ratio guarantees that the refractive index profile is invariant along the length of the fiber for several tens of centimeters. The large refractive index difference of 0.1 between the disordered sites results in a small localized beam radius that is comparable to the beam radius of conventional optical fibers. The input light is launched from a standard single mode optical fiber using the butt-coupling method and the near-field output beam from the disordered fiber is imaged using a 40X objective and a CCD camera. The output beam diameter agrees well with the expected results from the numerical simulations. The disordered optical fiber presented in this work is the first device-level implementation of 2D Anderson localization, and can potentially be used for image transport and short-haul optical communication systems.
Physics, Issue 77, Chemistry, Optics, Physics (General), Transverse Anderson Localization, Polymer Optical Fibers, Scattering, Random Media, Optical Fiber Materials, electromagnetism, optical fibers, optical materials, optical waveguides, photonics, wave propagation (optics), fiber optics
Methods for the Modulation and Analysis of NF-κB-dependent Adult Neurogenesis
Institutions: University of Bielefeld, University of Bielefeld.
The hippocampus plays a pivotal role in the formation and consolidation of episodic memories, and in spatial orientation. Historically, the adult hippocampus has been viewed as a very static anatomical region of the mammalian brain. However, recent findings have demonstrated that the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus is an area of tremendous plasticity in adults, involving not only modifications of existing neuronal circuits, but also adult neurogenesis. This plasticity is regulated by complex transcriptional networks, in which the transcription factor NF-κB plays a prominent role. To study and manipulate adult neurogenesis, a transgenic mouse model for forebrain-specific neuronal inhibition of NF-κB activity can be used.
In this study, methods are described for the analysis of NF-κB-dependent neurogenesis, including its structural aspects, neuronal apoptosis and progenitor proliferation, and cognitive significance, which was specifically assessed via a dentate gyrus (DG)-dependent behavioral test, the spatial pattern separation-Barnes maze (SPS-BM). The SPS-BM protocol could be simply adapted for use with other transgenic animal models designed to assess the influence of particular genes on adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Furthermore, SPS-BM could be used in other experimental settings aimed at investigating and manipulating DG-dependent learning, for example, using pharmacological agents.
Neuroscience, Issue 84, NF-κB, hippocampus, Adult neurogenesis, spatial pattern separation-Barnes maze, dentate gyrus, p65 knock-out mice
Training Synesthetic Letter-color Associations by Reading in Color
Institutions: University of Amsterdam.
Synesthesia is a rare condition in which a stimulus from one modality automatically and consistently triggers unusual sensations in the same and/or other modalities. A relatively common and well-studied type is grapheme-color synesthesia, defined as the consistent experience of color when viewing, hearing and thinking about letters, words and numbers. We describe our method for investigating to what extent synesthetic associations between letters and colors can be learned by reading in color in nonsynesthetes. Reading in color is a special method for training associations in the sense that the associations are learned implicitly while the reader reads text as he or she normally would and it does not require explicit computer-directed training methods. In this protocol, participants are given specially prepared books to read in which four high-frequency letters are paired with four high-frequency colors. Participants receive unique sets of letter-color pairs based on their pre-existing preferences for colored letters. A modified Stroop task is administered before and after reading in order to test for learned letter-color associations and changes in brain activation. In addition to objective testing, a reading experience questionnaire is administered that is designed to probe for differences in subjective experience. A subset of questions may predict how well an individual learned the associations from reading in color. Importantly, we are not claiming that this method will cause each individual to develop grapheme-color synesthesia, only that it is possible for certain individuals to form letter-color associations by reading in color and these associations are similar in some aspects to those seen in developmental grapheme-color synesthetes. The method is quite flexible and can be used to investigate different aspects and outcomes of training synesthetic associations, including learning-induced changes in brain function and structure.
Behavior, Issue 84, synesthesia, training, learning, reading, vision, memory, cognition
Lignin Down-regulation of Zea mays via dsRNAi and Klason Lignin Analysis
Institutions: University of Arizona, Michigan State University, The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, Michigan State University.
To facilitate the use of lignocellulosic biomass as an alternative bioenergy resource, during biological conversion processes, a pretreatment step is needed to open up the structure of the plant cell wall, increasing the accessibility of the cell wall carbohydrates. Lignin, a polyphenolic material present in many cell wall types, is known to be a significant hindrance to enzyme access. Reduction in lignin content to a level that does not interfere with the structural integrity and defense system of the plant might be a valuable step to reduce the costs of bioethanol production. In this study, we have genetically down-regulated one of the lignin biosynthesis-related genes, cinnamoyl-CoA reductase (ZmCCR1
) via a double stranded RNA interference technique. The ZmCCR1_RNAi
construct was integrated into the maize genome using the particle bombardment method. Transgenic maize plants grew normally as compared to the wild-type control plants without interfering with biomass growth or defense mechanisms, with the exception of displaying of brown-coloration in transgenic plants leaf mid-ribs, husks, and stems. The microscopic analyses, in conjunction with the histological assay, revealed that the leaf sclerenchyma fibers were thinned but the structure and size of other major vascular system components was not altered. The lignin content in the transgenic maize was reduced by 7-8.7%, the crystalline cellulose content was increased in response to lignin reduction, and hemicelluloses remained unchanged. The analyses may indicate that carbon flow might have been shifted from lignin biosynthesis to cellulose biosynthesis. This article delineates the procedures used to down-regulate the lignin content in maize via RNAi technology, and the cell wall compositional analyses used to verify the effect of the modifications on the cell wall structure.
Bioengineering, Issue 89, Zea mays, cinnamoyl-CoA reductase (CCR), dsRNAi, Klason lignin measurement, cell wall carbohydrate analysis, gas chromatography (GC)
Histochemical Staining of Arabidopsis thaliana Secondary Cell Wall Elements
Institutions: Joint Bioenergy Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
is a model organism commonly used to understand and manipulate various cellular processes in plants, and it has been used extensively in the study of secondary cell wall formation. Secondary cell wall deposition occurs after the primary cell wall is laid down, a process carried out exclusively by specialized cells such as those forming vessel and fiber tissues. Most secondary cell walls are composed of cellulose (40–50%), hemicellulose (25–30%), and lignin (20–30%). Several mutations affecting secondary cell wall biosynthesis have been isolated, and the corresponding mutants may or may not exhibit obvious biochemical composition changes or visual phenotypes since these mutations could be masked by compensatory responses. Staining procedures have historically been used to show differences on a cellular basis. These methods are exclusively visual means of analysis; nevertheless their role in rapid and critical analysis is of great importance. Congo red and calcofluor white are stains used to detect polysaccharides, whereas Mäule and phloroglucinol are commonly used to determine differences in lignin, and toluidine blue O is used to differentially stain polysaccharides and lignin. The seemingly simple techniques of sectioning, staining, and imaging can be a challenge for beginners. Starting with sample preparation using the A. thaliana
model, this study details the protocols of a variety of staining methodologies that can be easily implemented for observation of cell and tissue organization in secondary cell walls of plants.
Cellular Biology, Issue 87, Xylem, Fibers, Lignin, polysaccharides, Plant cell wall, Mäule staining, Phloroglucinol, Congo red, Toluidine blue O, Calcofluor white, Cell wall staining methods
Tissue Triage and Freezing for Models of Skeletal Muscle Disease
Institutions: Medical College of Wisconsin, The Ohio State University, Virginia Tech, University of Kentucky, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Cure Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, Joshua Frase Foundation, University of Washington, University of Arizona.
Skeletal muscle is a unique tissue because of its structure and function, which requires specific protocols for tissue collection to obtain optimal results from functional, cellular, molecular, and pathological evaluations. Due to the subtlety of some pathological abnormalities seen in congenital muscle disorders and the potential for fixation to interfere with the recognition of these features, pathological evaluation of frozen muscle is preferable to fixed muscle when evaluating skeletal muscle for congenital muscle disease. Additionally, the potential to produce severe freezing artifacts in muscle requires specific precautions when freezing skeletal muscle for histological examination that are not commonly used when freezing other tissues. This manuscript describes a protocol for rapid freezing of skeletal muscle using isopentane (2-methylbutane) cooled with liquid nitrogen to preserve optimal skeletal muscle morphology. This procedure is also effective for freezing tissue intended for genetic or protein expression studies. Furthermore, we have integrated our freezing protocol into a broader procedure that also describes preferred methods for the short term triage of tissue for (1) single fiber functional studies and (2) myoblast cell culture, with a focus on the minimum effort necessary to collect tissue and transport it to specialized research or reference labs to complete these studies. Overall, this manuscript provides an outline of how fresh tissue can be effectively distributed for a variety of phenotypic studies and thereby provides standard operating procedures (SOPs) for pathological studies related to congenital muscle disease.
Basic Protocol, Issue 89,
Tissue, Freezing, Muscle, Isopentane, Pathology, Functional Testing, Cell Culture
Multi-step Preparation Technique to Recover Multiple Metabolite Compound Classes for In-depth and Informative Metabolomic Analysis
Institutions: National Jewish Health, University of Colorado Denver.
Metabolomics is an emerging field which enables profiling of samples from living organisms in order to obtain insight into biological processes. A vital aspect of metabolomics is sample preparation whereby inconsistent techniques generate unreliable results. This technique encompasses protein precipitation, liquid-liquid extraction, and solid-phase extraction as a means of fractionating metabolites into four distinct classes. Improved enrichment of low abundance molecules with a resulting increase in sensitivity is obtained, and ultimately results in more confident identification of molecules. This technique has been applied to plasma, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, and cerebrospinal fluid samples with volumes as low as 50 µl. Samples can be used for multiple downstream applications; for example, the pellet resulting from protein precipitation can be stored for later analysis. The supernatant from that step undergoes liquid-liquid extraction using water and strong organic solvent to separate the hydrophilic and hydrophobic compounds. Once fractionated, the hydrophilic layer can be processed for later analysis or discarded if not needed. The hydrophobic fraction is further treated with a series of solvents during three solid-phase extraction steps to separate it into fatty acids, neutral lipids, and phospholipids. This allows the technician the flexibility to choose which class of compounds is preferred for analysis. It also aids in more reliable metabolite identification since some knowledge of chemical class exists.
Bioengineering, Issue 89, plasma, chemistry techniques, analytical, solid phase extraction, mass spectrometry, metabolomics, fluids and secretions, profiling, small molecules, lipids, liquid chromatography, liquid-liquid extraction, cerebrospinal fluid, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid
Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging in the Analysis of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Institutions: University of Ulm.
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) techniques provide information on the microstructural processes of the cerebral white matter (WM) in vivo
. The present applications are designed to investigate differences of WM involvement patterns in different brain diseases, especially neurodegenerative disorders, by use of different DTI analyses in comparison with matched controls.
DTI data analysis is performed in a variate fashion, i.e.
voxelwise comparison of regional diffusion direction-based metrics such as fractional anisotropy (FA), together with fiber tracking (FT) accompanied by tractwise fractional anisotropy statistics (TFAS) at the group level in order to identify differences in FA along WM structures, aiming at the definition of regional patterns of WM alterations at the group level. Transformation into a stereotaxic standard space is a prerequisite for group studies and requires thorough data processing to preserve directional inter-dependencies. The present applications show optimized technical approaches for this preservation of quantitative and directional information during spatial normalization in data analyses at the group level. On this basis, FT techniques can be applied to group averaged data in order to quantify metrics information as defined by FT. Additionally, application of DTI methods, i.e.
differences in FA-maps after stereotaxic alignment, in a longitudinal analysis at an individual subject basis reveal information about the progression of neurological disorders. Further quality improvement of DTI based results can be obtained during preprocessing by application of a controlled elimination of gradient directions with high noise levels.
In summary, DTI is used to define a distinct WM pathoanatomy of different brain diseases by the combination of whole brain-based and tract-based DTI analysis.
Medicine, Issue 77, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Neurodegenerative Diseases, nuclear magnetic resonance, NMR, MR, MRI, diffusion tensor imaging, fiber tracking, group level comparison, neurodegenerative diseases, brain, imaging, clinical techniques
Setting Limits on Supersymmetry Using Simplified Models
Institutions: University College London, CERN, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.
Experimental limits on supersymmetry and similar theories are difficult to set because of the enormous available parameter space and difficult to generalize because of the complexity of single points. Therefore, more phenomenological, simplified models are becoming popular for setting experimental limits, as they have clearer physical interpretations. The use of these simplified model limits to set a real limit on a concrete theory has not, however, been demonstrated. This paper recasts simplified model limits into limits on a specific and complete supersymmetry model, minimal supergravity. Limits obtained under various physical assumptions are comparable to those produced by directed searches. A prescription is provided for calculating conservative and aggressive limits on additional theories. Using acceptance and efficiency tables along with the expected and observed numbers of events in various signal regions, LHC experimental results can be recast in this manner into almost any theoretical framework, including nonsupersymmetric theories with supersymmetry-like signatures.
Physics, Issue 81, high energy physics, particle physics, Supersymmetry, LHC, ATLAS, CMS, New Physics Limits, Simplified Models
Isolation of Native Soil Microorganisms with Potential for Breaking Down Biodegradable Plastic Mulch Films Used in Agriculture
Institutions: Western Washington University, Washington State University Northwestern Research and Extension Center, Texas Tech University.
Fungi native to agricultural soils that colonized commercially available biodegradable mulch (BDM) films were isolated and assessed for potential to degrade plastics. Typically, when formulations of plastics are known and a source of the feedstock is available, powdered plastic can be suspended in agar-based media and degradation determined by visualization of clearing zones. However, this approach poorly mimics in situ
degradation of BDMs. First, BDMs are not dispersed as small particles throughout the soil matrix. Secondly, BDMs are not sold commercially as pure polymers, but rather as films containing additives (e.g.
fillers, plasticizers and dyes) that may affect microbial growth. The procedures described herein were used for isolates acquired from soil-buried mulch films. Fungal isolates acquired from excavated BDMs were tested individually for growth on pieces of new, disinfested BDMs laid atop defined medium containing no carbon source except agar. Isolates that grew on BDMs were further tested in liquid medium where BDMs were the sole added carbon source. After approximately ten weeks, fungal colonization and BDM degradation were assessed by scanning electron microscopy. Isolates were identified via analysis of ribosomal RNA gene sequences. This report describes methods for fungal isolation, but bacteria also were isolated using these methods by substituting media appropriate for bacteria. Our methodology should prove useful for studies investigating breakdown of intact plastic films or products for which plastic feedstocks are either unknown or not available. However our approach does not provide a quantitative method for comparing rates of BDM degradation.
Microbiology, Issue 75, Plant Biology, Environmental Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, Soil Science, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Genetics, Mycology, Fungi, Bacteria, Microorganisms, Biodegradable plastic, biodegradable mulch, compostable plastic, compostable mulch, plastic degradation, composting, breakdown, soil, 18S ribosomal DNA, isolation, culture
Patterned Photostimulation with Digital Micromirror Devices to Investigate Dendritic Integration Across Branch Points
Institutions: University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Light is a versatile and precise means to control neuronal excitability. The recent introduction of light sensitive effectors such as channel-rhodopsin and caged neurotransmitters have led to interests in developing better means to control patterns of light in space and time that are useful for experimental neuroscience. One conventional strategy, employed in confocal and 2-photon microscopy, is to focus light to a diffraction limited spot and then scan that single spot sequentially over the region of interest. This approach becomes problematic if large areas have to be stimulated within a brief time window, a problem more applicable to photostimulation than for imaging. An alternate strategy is to project the complete spatial pattern on the target with the aid of a digital micromirror device (DMD). The DMD approach is appealing because the hardware components are relatively inexpensive and is supported by commercial interests. Because such a system is not available for upright microscopes, we will discuss the critical issues in the construction and operations of such a DMD system. Even though we will be primarily describing the construction of the system for UV photolysis, the modifications for building the much simpler visible light system for optogenetic experiments will also be provided. The UV photolysis system was used to carryout experiments to study a fundamental question in neuroscience, how are spatially distributed inputs integrated across distal dendritic branch points. The results suggest that integration can be non-linear across branch points and the supralinearity is largely mediated by NMDA receptors.
Bioengineering, Issue 49, DMD, photolysis, dendrite, photostimulation, DLP, optogenetics
Cryopreservation of Preimplantation Embryos of Cattle, Sheep, and Goats
Institutions: Iowa State University.
Preimplantation embryos from cattle, sheep, and goats may be cryopreserved for short- or long-term storage. Preimplantation embryos consist predominantly of water, and the avoidance of intracellular ice crystal formation during the cryopreservation process is of paramount importance to maintain embryo viability. Embryos are placed into a hypertonic solution (1.4 – 1.5 M) of a cryoprotective agent (CPA) such as ethylene glycol (EG) or glycerol (GLYC) to create an osmotic gradient that facilitates cellular dehydration. After embryos reach osmotic equilibrium in the CPA solution, they are individually loaded in the hypertonic CPA solution into 0.25 ml plastic straws for freezing. Embryos are placed into a controlled rate freezer at a temperature of -6°C. Ice crystal formation is induced in the CPA solution surrounding the embryo, and crystallization causes an increase in the concentration of CPA outside of the embryo, causing further cellular dehydration. Embryos are cooled at a rate of 0.5°C/min, enabling further dehydration, to a temperature of -34°C before being plunged into liquid nitrogen (-196°C). Cryopreserved embryos must be thawed prior to transfer to a recipient (surrogate) female. Straws containing the embryos are removed from the liquid nitrogen dewar, held in room temperature air for 3 to 5 sec, and placed into a 37°C water bath for 25 to 30 sec. Embryos cryopreserved in GLYC are placed into a 1 M solution of sucrose for 10 min for removal of the CPA before transfer to a recipient (surrogate) female. Embryos cryopreserved in EG, however, may be directly transferred to the uterus of a recipient.
Developmental Biology, Issue 54, embryo, cryopreservation, cattle, sheep, goats
Agrobacterium-Mediated Virus-Induced Gene Silencing Assay In Cotton
Institutions: Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University.
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum
) is one of the most important crops worldwide. Considerable efforts have been made on molecular breeding of new varieties. The large-scale gene functional analysis in cotton has been lagged behind most of the modern plant species, likely due to its large size of genome, gene duplication and polyploidy, long growth cycle and recalcitrance to genetic transformation1
. To facilitate high throughput functional genetic/genomic study in cotton, we attempt to develop rapid and efficient transient assays to assess cotton gene functions.
Virus-Induced Gene Silencing (VIGS) is a powerful technique that was developed based on the host Post-Transcriptional Gene Silencing (PTGS) to repress viral proliferation2,3
. Agrobacterium-mediated VIGS has been successfully applied in a wide range of dicots species such as Solanaceae, Arabidopsis
and legume species, and monocots species including barley, wheat and maize, for various functional genomic studies3,4
. As this rapid and efficient approach avoids plant transformation and overcomes functional redundancy, it is particularly attractive and suitable for functional genomic study in crop species like cotton not amenable for transformation.
In this study, we report the detailed protocol of Agrobacterium-mediated VIGS system in cotton. Among the several viral VIGS vectors, the tobacco rattle virus (TRV) invades a wide range of hosts and is able to spread vigorously throughout the entire plant yet produce mild symptoms on the hosts5. To monitor the silencing efficiency, GrCLA1, a homolog gene of Arabidopsis Cloroplastos alterados 1
) in cotton, has been cloned and inserted into the VIGS binary vector pYL156. CLA1
gene is involved in chloroplast development6
, and previous studies have shown that loss-of-function of AtCLA1
resulted in an albino phenotype on true leaves7
, providing an excellent visual marker for silencing efficiency. At approximately two weeks post Agrobacterium
infiltration, the albino phenotype started to appear on the true leaves, with 100% silencing efficiency in all replicated experiments. The silencing of endogenous gene expression was also confirmed by RT-PCR analysis. Significantly, silencing could potently occur in all the cultivars we tested, including various commercially grown varieties in Texas. This rapid and efficient Agrobacterium-mediated VIGS assay provides a very powerful tool for rapid large-scale analysis of gene functions at genome-wide level in cotton.
Plant Biology, Issue 54, Agrobacterium, Cotton, Functional Genomics, Virus-Induced Gene Silencing
Accurate and Simple Evaluation of Vascular Anastomoses in Monochorionic Placenta using Colored Dye
Institutions: Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden University Medical Center.
The presence of placental vascular anastomoses is a conditio sine qua non
for the development of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) and twin anemia polycythemia sequence (TAPS)1,2
. Injection studies of twin placentas have shown that such anastomoses are almost invariably present in monochorionic twins and extremely rare in dichorionic twins1
. Three types of anastomoses have been documented: from artery to artery, from vein to vein and from artery to vein. Arterio-venous (AV) anastomoses are unidirectional and are referred to as "deep" anastomoses since they proceed through a shared placental cotyledon, whereas arterio-arterial (AA) and veno-venous (VV) anastomoses are bi-directional and are referred to as "superficial" since they lie on the chorionic plate. Both TTTS and TAPS are caused by net imbalance of blood flow between the twins due to AV anastomoses. Blood from one twin (the donor) is pumped through an artery into the shared placental cotyledon and then drained through a vein into the circulation of the other twin (the recipient). Unless blood is pumped back from the recipient to the donor through oppositely directed deep AV anastomoses or through superficial anastomoses, an imbalance of blood volumes occurs, gradually leading to the development of TTTS or TAPS. The presence of an AA anastomosis has been shown to protect against the development of TTTS and TAPS by compensating for the circulatory imbalance caused by the uni-directional AV anastomoses1,2
Injection of monochorionic placentas soon after birth is a useful mean to understand the etiology of various (hematological) complications in monochorionic twins and is a required test to reach the diagnosis of TAPS2
. In addition, injection of TTTS placentas treated with fetoscopic laser surgery allows identification of possible residual anastomoses3-5
. This additional information is of paramount importance for all perinatologists involved in the management and care of monochorionic twins with TTTS or TAPS. Several placental injection techniques are currently being used. We provide a simple protocol to accurately evaluate the presence of (residual) vascular anastomoses using colored dye injection.
Medicine, Issue 55, monochorionic twin placenta, vascular anastomoses, twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, twin anemia polycythemia sequence, colored dye injection, fetoscopic laser surgery
Visualization of DNA Replication in the Vertebrate Model System DT40 using the DNA Fiber Technique
Institutions: University of Oxford , University of Warsaw.
Maintenance of replication fork stability is of utmost importance for dividing cells to preserve viability and prevent disease. The processes involved not only ensure faithful genome duplication in the face of endogenous and exogenous DNA damage but also prevent genomic instability, a recognized causative factor in tumor development.
Here, we describe a simple and cost-effective fluorescence microscopy-based method to visualize DNA replication in the avian B-cell line DT40. This cell line provides a powerful tool to investigate protein function in vivo
by reverse genetics in vertebrate cells1
. DNA fiber fluorography in DT40 cells lacking a specific gene allows one to elucidate the function of this gene product in DNA replication and genome stability. Traditional methods to analyze replication fork dynamics in vertebrate cells rely on measuring the overall rate of DNA synthesis in a population of pulse-labeled cells. This is a quantitative approach and does not allow for qualitative analysis of parameters that influence DNA synthesis. In contrast, the rate of movement of active forks can be followed directly when using the DNA fiber technique2-4
. In this approach, nascent DNA is labeled in vivo
by incorporation of halogenated nucleotides (Fig 1A). Subsequently, individual fibers are stretched onto a microscope slide, and the labeled DNA replication tracts are stained with specific antibodies and visualized by fluorescence microscopy (Fig 1B). Initiation of replication as well as fork directionality is determined by the consecutive use of two differently modified analogues. Furthermore, the dual-labeling approach allows for quantitative analysis of parameters that influence DNA synthesis during the S-phase, i.e. replication structures such as ongoing and stalled forks, replication origin density as well as fork terminations. Finally, the experimental procedure can be accomplished within a day, and requires only general laboratory equipment and a fluorescence microscope.
Molecular Biology, Issue 56, Genetics, DNA fiber analysis, replication speed, fork stalling, origin firing, termination
Annotation of Plant Gene Function via Combined Genomics, Metabolomics and Informatics
Given the ever expanding number of model plant species for which complete genome sequences are available and the abundance of bio-resources such as knockout mutants, wild accessions and advanced breeding populations, there is a rising burden for gene functional annotation. In this protocol, annotation of plant gene function using combined co-expression gene analysis, metabolomics and informatics is provided (Figure 1
). This approach is based on the theory of using target genes of known function to allow the identification of non-annotated genes likely to be involved in a certain metabolic process, with the identification of target compounds via metabolomics. Strategies are put forward for applying this information on populations generated by both forward and reverse genetics approaches in spite of none of these are effortless. By corollary this approach can also be used as an approach to characterise unknown peaks representing new or specific secondary metabolites in the limited tissues, plant species or stress treatment, which is currently the important trial to understanding plant metabolism.
Plant Biology, Issue 64, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Metabolomics, Plant metabolism, Transcriptome analysis, Functional annotation, Computational biology, Plant biology, Theoretical biology, Spectroscopy and structural analysis
Patient-specific Modeling of the Heart: Estimation of Ventricular Fiber Orientations
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University.
Patient-specific simulations of heart (dys)function aimed at personalizing cardiac therapy are hampered by the absence of in vivo
imaging technology for clinically acquiring myocardial fiber orientations. The objective of this project was to develop a methodology to estimate cardiac fiber orientations from in vivo
images of patient heart geometries. An accurate representation of ventricular geometry and fiber orientations was reconstructed, respectively, from high-resolution ex vivo structural magnetic resonance (MR) and diffusion tensor (DT) MR images of a normal human heart, referred to as the atlas. Ventricular geometry of a patient heart was extracted, via
semiautomatic segmentation, from an in vivo
computed tomography (CT) image. Using image transformation algorithms, the atlas ventricular geometry was deformed to match that of the patient. Finally, the deformation field was applied to the atlas fiber orientations to obtain an estimate of patient fiber orientations. The accuracy of the fiber estimates was assessed using six normal and three failing canine hearts. The mean absolute difference between inclination angles of acquired and estimated fiber orientations was 15.4 °. Computational simulations of ventricular activation maps and pseudo-ECGs in sinus rhythm and ventricular tachycardia indicated that there are no significant differences between estimated and acquired fiber orientations at a clinically observable level.The new insights obtained from the project will pave the way for the development of patient-specific models of the heart that can aid physicians in personalized diagnosis and decisions regarding electrophysiological interventions.
Bioengineering, Issue 71, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Cardiology, Myocytes, Cardiac, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, MRI, Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Cardiac Electrophysiology, computerized simulation (general), mathematical modeling (systems analysis), Cardiomyocyte, biomedical image processing, patient-specific modeling, Electrophysiology, simulation
Assembly of Nucleosomal Arrays from Recombinant Core Histones and Nucleosome Positioning DNA
Institutions: Colorado State University .
Core histone octamers that are repetitively spaced along a DNA molecule are called nucleosomal arrays. Nucleosomal arrays are obtained in one of two ways: purification from in vivo
sources, or reconstitution in vitro
from recombinant core histones and tandemly repeated nucleosome positioning DNA. The latter method has the benefit of allowing for the assembly of a more compositionally uniform and precisely positioned nucleosomal array. Sedimentation velocity experiments in the analytical ultracentrifuge yield information about the size and shape of macromolecules by analyzing the rate at which they migrate through solution under centrifugal force. This technique, along with atomic force microscopy, can be used for quality control, ensuring that the majority of DNA templates are saturated with nucleosomes after reconstitution. Here we describe the protocols necessary to reconstitute milligram quantities of length and compositionally defined nucleosomal arrays suitable for biochemical and biophysical studies of chromatin structure and function.
Cellular Biology, Issue 79, Chromosome Structures, Chromatin, Nucleosomes, Histones, Microscopy, Atomic Force (AFM), Biochemistry, Chromatin, Nucleosome, Nucleosomal Array, Histone, Analytical Ultracentrifugation, Sedimentation Velocity
DNA Transfection of Mammalian Skeletal Muscles using In Vivo Electroporation
Institutions: David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles.
A growing interest in cell biology is to express transgenically modified forms of essential proteins (e.g. fluorescently tagged constructs and/or mutant variants) in order to investigate their endogenous distribution and functional relevance. An interesting approach that has been implemented to fulfill this objective in fully differentiated cells is the in vivo
transfection of plasmids by various methods into specific tissues such as liver1
, skeletal muscle2,3
, and even the brain4
. We present here a detailed description of the steps that must be followed in order to efficiently transfect genetic material into fibers of the flexor digitorum brevis
(FDB) and interosseus
(IO) muscles of adult mice using an in vivo
electroporation approach. The experimental parameters have been optimized so as to maximize the number of muscle fibers transfected while minimizing tissue damages that may impair the quality and quantity of the proteins expressed in individual fibers. We have verified that the implementation of the methodology described in this paper results in a high yield of soluble proteins, i.e. EGFP and ECFP3
, calpain, FKBP12, β2a-DHPR, etc. ; structural proteins, i.e. minidystrophin and α-actinin; and membrane proteins, i.e. α1s-DHPR, RyR1, cardiac Na/Ca2+
exchanger , NaV1.4 Na channel, SERCA1, etc., when applied to FDB, IO and other muscles of mice and rats. The efficient expression of some of these proteins has been verified with biochemical3
and functional evidence5
. However, by far the most common confirmatory approach used by us are standard fluorescent microscopy and 2-photon laser scanning microscopy (TPLSM), which permit to identify not only the overall expression, but also the detailed intracellular localization, of fluorescently tagged protein constructs. The method could be equally used to transfect plasmids encoding for the expression of proteins of physiological relevance (as shown here), or for interference RNA (siRNA) aiming to suppress the expression of normally expressed proteins (not tested by us yet). It should be noted that the transfection of FDB and IO muscle fibers is particularly relevant for the investigation of mammalian muscle physiology since fibers enzymatically dissociated from these muscles are currently one of the most suitable models to investigate basic mechanisms of excitability and excitation-contraction coupling under current or voltage clamp conditions2,6-8
Cellular Biology, Issue 32, electroporation, skeletal muscle, plasmids, protein expression, mouse, two-photon microscopy, fluorescence, transgenic
Demonstration of Cutaneous Allodynia in Association with Chronic Pelvic Pain
Institutions: University of Calgary.
Pelvic pain is a common condition that is associated with dysmenorrhea and endometriosis. In some women the severe episodes of cyclic pain change and the resultant pain becomes continuous and this condition becomes known as Chronic Pelvic Pain. This state can be present even after the appropriate medical or surgical therapy has been instituted. It can be associated with pain and tenderness in the muscles of the abdomen wall and intra-pelvic muscles leading to severe dyspareunia. Additional symptoms of irritable bowel and interstitial cystitis are common. A common sign of the development of this state is the emergence of cutaneous allodynia
which emerges from the so-called viscero-somatic reflex. A simple bedside test for the presence of cutaneous allodynia
is presented that does not require excessive time or special equipment. This test builds on previous work associated with changes in sensation related to gall bladder function and the viscera-somatic reflex(1;2).
The test is undertaken with the subject s permission after an explanation of how the test will be performed. Allodynia
refers to a condition in which a stimulus that is not normally painful is interpreted by the subject as painful. In this instance the light touch associated with a cotton-tipped applicator would not be expected to be painful. A positive test is however noted by the woman as suddenly painful or suddenly sharp. The patterns of this sensation are usually in a discrete pattern of a dermatome of the nerves that innervate the pelvis.
The underlying pathology is now interpreted as evidence of neuroplasticity as a consequence of severe and repeating pain with changes in the functions of the dorsal horns of the spinal cord that results in altered function of visceral tissues and resultant somatic symptoms(3).
The importance of recognizing the condition lies in an awareness that this process may present coincidentally with the initiating condition or after it has been treated. It also permits the clinician to evaluate the situation from the perspective that alternative explanations for the pain may be present that may not require additional surgery.
Medicine, Issue 28, Chronic pelvic pain, cutaneous allodynia, trigger points, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, dyspareunia
Fabrication of Amperometric Electrodes
Institutions: Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine.
Carbon fiber electrodes are crucial for the detection of catecholamine release from vesicles in single cells for amperometry measurements. Here, we describe the techniques needed to generate low noise (<0.5 pA) electrodes. The techniques have been modified from published descriptions by previous researchers (1,2). Electrodes are made by preparing carbon fibers and threading them individually into each capillary tube by using a vacuum with a filter to aspirate the fiber. Next, the capillary tube with fiber is pulled by an electrode puller, creating two halves, each with a fine-pointed tip. The electrodes are dipped in hot, liquid epoxy mixed with hardener to create an epoxy-glass seal. Lastly, the electrodes are placed in an oven to cure the epoxy. Careful handling of the electrodes is critical to ensure that they are made consistently and without damage. This protocol shows how to fabricate and cut amperometric electrodes for recording from single cells.
Cellular Biology, Issue 27, catecholamine measurements, recording, carbon-fiber, amperometry, electrodes, electrophysiology
BioMEMS and Cellular Biology: Perspectives and Applications
Institutions: University of Washington.
The ability to culture cells has revolutionized hypothesis testing in basic cell and molecular biology research. It has become a standard methodology in drug screening, toxicology, and clinical assays, and is increasingly used in regenerative medicine. However, the traditional cell culture methodology essentially consisting of the immersion of a large population of cells in a homogeneous fluid medium and on a homogeneous flat substrate has become increasingly limiting both from a fundamental and practical perspective. Microfabrication technologies have enabled researchers to design, with micrometer control, the biochemical composition and topology of the substrate, and the medium composition, as well as the neighboring cell type in the surrounding cellular microenvironment. Additionally, microtechnology is conceptually well-suited for the development of fast, low-cost in vitro systems that allow for high-throughput culturing and analysis of cells under large numbers of conditions. In this interview, Albert Folch explains these limitations, how they can be overcome with soft lithography and microfluidics, and describes some relevant examples of research in his lab and future directions.
Biomedical Engineering, Issue 8, BioMEMS, Soft Lithography, Microfluidics, Agrin, Axon Guidance, Olfaction, Interview