An Introduction to the Laboratory Mouse: Mus musculus
Mice (Mus musculus) are an important research tool for modeling human disease progression and development in the lab. Despite differences in their size and appearance, mice share a distinct genetic similarity to humans, and their ability to reproduce and mature quickly make them efficient and economical candidate mammals for scientific study.
This video provides a brief overview of mice, both as organisms and in terms of their many advantages as experimental models. The discussion features an introduction to common laboratory mouse strains, including the nude mouse, whose genetic makeup renders them both hairless and immunodeficient. A brief history of mouse research is also offered, ranging from their first use in genetics experiments to Nobel prize-winning discoveries in immunology and neurobiology. Finally, representative examples of the diverse types of research that can be performed in mice are presented, such as classic behavioral tests like the Morris water maze and in-depth investigations of mammalian embryonic development.…
An Introduction to the Chick: Gallus gallus domesticus
The chicken embryo (Gallus gallus domesticus) is an extremely valuable model organism for research in developmental biology, in part because most of their development takes place within an egg that is incubated outside of the mother. As a result, early developmental stages can be accessed, visualized and manipulated by simply creating a small hole in the eggshell. Since billions of chickens are raised worldwide for meat and egg production, scientists can easily and economically acquire large numbers of fertilized eggs throughout the year. Furthermore, chickens share significant genetic conservation with humans, so the genetic mechanisms that have been found to regulate chicken development are also relevant to our own biology. This video focuses on introducing the domesticated chicken as a scientific model. The discussion begins with a review of chicken phylogeny, revealing the features that make them amniotes, like other birds, reptiles, and mammals. Highlights from the millennia of chicken research will be presented, ranging from Aristotle’s postulates about the function of extra-embryonic membranes to more recent, Nobel-prize winning discoveries in neuroscience. Additionally, some current examples of studies performed in chicken embryos will be provided, such as in vivo tracking of cell movements during development and the recruitment of blood vessels to developing tumors (a process known as ang…
An Introduction to the Zebrafish: Danio rerio
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are small freshwater fish that are used as model organisms for biomedical research. The many strengths of these fish include their high degree of genetic conservation with humans and their simple, inexpensive maintenance. Additionally, gene expression can be easily manipulated in zebrafish embryos, and their transparency allows for observation of developmental processes.
This overview video first introduces basic zebrafish biology, including their phylogeny, life cycle, and natural environment, before presenting the features that make them so useful in the lab. A brief history of zebrafish research is also provided through a review of major discoveries made in fish, ranging from the early establishment of methods for efficient genetic screening to the discovery of novel therapeutics for human diseases such as cancer. Finally, some of the many avenues of experimentation performed in zebrafish are discussed, including immunological and developmental studies.…
Basic Mouse Care and Maintenance
Mice (Mus musculus) are small rodents that breed and sexually mature quickly, making them perfectly suited to generating large animal colonies for biological research. As compared to other mammalian species, mice are simple and inexpensive to maintain in the laboratory. Nevertheless, mouse colonies do have specific husbandry needs that are critical to preserving animal health and safety as well as experimental reproducibility.
This video demonstrates standard practices that ensure mice are treated as humanely as possible within the laboratory animal facility, or vivarium. The discussion begins by reviewing a typical mouse housing setup, consisting of a plastic cage equipped with a layer of soft bedding and nesting material. The preformulated food pellets (also known as chow) that comprise the typical mouse diet are also introduced. In order to facilitate experiments performed on mice, safe animal handling practices are demonstrated, including common restraint techniques like “scruffing,” and the strategies used by researchers to keep track of individual mice within the facility. Finally, experimental manipulations of mouse housing and diet are discussed, in addition to one of the most common applications of the scruffing technique — performing injections.…
Basic Chick Care and Maintenance
Chicks (Gallus gallus domesticus) are a valuable research tool, not only for studying important concepts in vertebrate development, neuroscience, and tumor biology, but also as an efficient system in which to propagate viruses. Although eggs can be purchased from external suppliers and working with chicks requires very little specialized equipment, an understanding of proper handling procedures is required for normal embryo development.This video will provide an overview of egg handling principles, including an explanation of the incubation parameters that can profoundly impact development: temperature, humidity, and egg rotation. Most experiments that use chicken eggs require access to the embryo within the shell, which is achieved by cutting a small, resealable hole, or “window.” This process is described in step-by-step detail, along with several other techniques essential for working with chicks, such as candling and India ink injection. Finally, the video will review some practical applications of these basic techniques in advanced scientific research.…
Zebrafish Maintenance and Husbandry
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a powerful vertebrate model system for studying development, modeling disease, and screening for novel therapeutics. Due to their small size, large numbers of zebrafish can be housed in the laboratory at low cost. Although zebrafish are relatively easy to maintain, special consideration must be given to both diet and water quality to in order to optimize fish health and reproductive success.
This video will provide an overview of zebrafish husbandry and maintenance in the lab. After a brief review of the natural zebrafish habitat, techniques essential to recreating this environment in the lab will be discussed, including key elements of fish facility water recirculation systems and the preparation of brine shrimp as part of the zebrafish diet. Additionally, the presentation will include information on how specific zebrafish strains are tracked in a laboratory setting, with specific reference to the collection of tail fin samples for DNA extraction and genotyping. Finally, experimental modifications of the zebrafish environment will be discussed as a means to further our understanding of these fish, and in turn, ourselves.…
Development and Reproduction of the Laboratory Mouse
Successful breeding of the laboratory mouse (Mus musculus) is critical to the establishment and maintenance of a productive animal colony. Additionally, mouse embryos are frequently studied to answer questions about developmental processes. A wide variety of genetic tools now exist for regulating gene expression during mouse embryonic and postnatal development, which can help scientists to understand more about heritable diseases affecting human development. This video provides an introduction to the reproduction and development of mice. In addition to clarifying the terminology used to describe developmental progression, the presentation reviews key stages of the mouse life cycle. First, major development events that take place in utero are described, with special attention given to the unique layout of early rodent embryos. Next, husbandry protocols are provided for postnatal mice, or pups, including the process of weaning, or removal of pups from their mother's cage. Since males and females must be separated at this stage to prevent unscheduled mating, the demonstration also reveals how to determine mouse sex. Subsequently, instructions are given for carrying out controlled mouse breeding, including screening for the copulatory plug, which is useful for precisely timed embryonic development. Finally, the video highlights strategies used to investigate the complex processes that govern mouse development, in…
Development of the Chick
The chicken embryo (Gallus gallus domesticus) provides an economical and accessible model for developmental biology research. Chicks develop rapidly and are amenable to genetic and physiological manipulations, allowing researchers to investigate developmental pathways down to the cell and molecular levels.
This video review of chick development begins by describing the process of egg fertilization and formation within the chicken reproductive tract. Next, the most commonly used chick staging nomenclature, the Hamburger Hamilton staging series, is introduced. Major events in chick development are then outlined, including the dramatic cellular movements known as gastrulation that form the three major cell layers: The ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. Cells from these layers go on to generate all the tissues within the organism, as well as extraembryonic membranes, which are necessary for the transport of gases, nutrients, and wastes within the eggshell. To conclude the discussion, some exciting techniques will be presented as strategies for studying chick development in greater detail.…
Zebrafish Reproduction and Development
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) has become a popular model for studying genetics and developmental biology. The transparency of these animals at early developmental stages permits the direct visualization of tissue morphogenesis at the cellular level. Furthermore, zebrafish are amenable to genetic manipulation, allowing researchers to determine the effect of gene expression on the development of a vertebrate with a high degree of genetic similarity to humans. This video provides a brief overview of the major phases of zebrafish development, with particular focus on the first 24 hours post fertilization (hpf). The discussion begins with a zygote consisting of a single cell, or blastomere, atop a large ball of yolk. Cleavage of the blastomere is then shown to produce an embryo containing thousands of cells within a matter of hours. Next, the dramatic cellular movements known as epiboly and gastrulation are explained, revealing how they contribute to reshaping a mass of cells into a moving embryo with a beating heart in just 1 day. The presentation follows embryo development through the hatching phase, when they become swimming, feeding larvae. Important considerations for caring for larvae are incorporated, including a brief review of how fish are raised to adulthood in a dedicated facility known as the nursery. Finally, the video concludes with some common techniques utilized for studying embryo development, dem…
Even though the human genome was mapped over 10 years ago, scientists are still far from understanding the function of every human gene! One way to evaluate how a gene functions is to disrupt the sequence encoding it and then evaluate the impact of this change (the phenotype) on the animal’s biology. This approach is commonly used in the mouse (Mus musculus), since it shares a high degree of genetic similarity with humans. To track the animals bearing genetic changes over several generations, it is necessary to screen the DNA of each mouse in a process known as genotyping. This video provides an overview of the theory and practice behind genotyping mice. The discussion begins with the basic principles of mouse genetics, including a review of the terms homozygote, heterozygote, wildtype, mutant, and transgenic. Next, step-by-step instructions are supplied for extracting and purifying genomic DNA from mouse tissue. Examples are provided demonstrating how to interpret genotyping results, as well as how to keep track of mice with the desired genotype. Finally, some representative applications of the genotyping procedure will be presented in order to demonstrate why this common technique is so essential to mouse research.…
In ovo Electroporation of Chicken Embryos
Electroporation is a technique used in biomedical research that allows for the manipulation of gene expression via the delivery of foreign genetic material into cells. More specifically, in ovo electroporation is performed on early developing chicks (Gallus gallus domesticus) contained within their eggshells. In this procedure, DNA or knockdown constructs are first injected into a target tissue. However, the genetic material is unable to penetrate the plasma membrane to carry out its function within the cell. To solve this problem, an electrical field is applied, causing temporary disruptions to membrane stability. This electric field also causes the negatively charged nucleic acids to migrate toward the positively charged electrode through the holes in the plasma membrane, thus effectively driving the DNA or knockdown construct into the cell. The major advantage of this technique is that the delivery of genetic material can be localized to isolated cell types at specific developmental time points. As a result, the genetic mechanisms that govern individual developmental events can be examined. This video provides an overview of the principles behind in ovo electroporation and introduces the tools required for the technique, including capillary needles, electrodes, and an electroporator. A step-by-step protocol for carrying out the procedure is also presented prior to discussion of a few fascinating examples of …
Zebrafish Breeding and Embryo Handling
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are an important model organism that is particularly valuable for research in developmental biology. Zebrafish are extremely fertile and can produce hundreds of progeny per week, so it is relatively easy to collect a large number of embryos for high sample numbers. Furthermore, zebrafish undergo rapid development and embryos are transparent, allowing for easy visualization of developmental processes.
This video covers the steps required for the collection of newly fertilized zebrafish embryos. A brief overview of zebrafish mating behavior is presented, followed by instructions for setting up crosses in specialized laboratory breeding tanks that allow for controlled mating. Also covered are the conditions required to initiate the release of eggs (known as spawning) the morning after tanks are set. Next, essential techniques for working with embryos are presented, including the inhibition of pigment development with the chemical PTU, and dechorionation: a procedure in which the shell-like membrane surrounding the embryo (the chorion) is removed. Finally, the video concludes with some practical applications of these techniques in developmental research.…
Introducing Experimental Agents into the Mouse
Many investigations performed in mice (Mus musculus) require the administration of an experimental agent to the animal. For example, it may be of interest to test the efficacy of a specific therapy, to induce a pathologic condition, or to administer anesthesia or palliative care. In order to ensure safe and efficient delivery, it is important to consider a variety of factors prior to the administration of the treatment.
This video, which reviews agent administration in the mouse, begins by highlighting properties to consider, such as viscosity, dose, and palatability, when planning the administration of an experimental agent. The subsequent discussion focuses on injection methods, including delineation of the structural components of the syringe and needle, how to interpret needle gauge, and safe mouse restraint methods for common injection sites. Detailed instructions are provided for performing subcutaneous (SC/SubQ), intraperitoneal (IP), and tail vein (IV) injections in mice. Furthermore, applications of these techniques as well as alternative administration routes are discussed.…
Chick ex ovo Culture
One strength of the chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) as a model organism for developmental biology is that the embryo develops outside the female and is easily accessible for experimental manipulation. Many techniques allow scientists to examine chicken embryos inside the eggshell (in ovo), but embryonic access can be limited at later stages of development. Fortunately, chicks can also be cultured ex ovo, or outside of the eggshell. The major advantage to ex ovo culture is greater access to tissues that might otherwise be obstructed by the shell or the orientation of the chick within the egg, especially for embryos in later stages of development. There are two principle strategies to ex ovo culture: whole yolk culture and explant culture. During whole yolk culture, the eggshell is cracked and the contents are transferred to a simple housing vessel. However, in explant culture methods, the embryo is excised from the yolk and mounted in the housing vessel to maintain membrane tension, which is important for normal development. Basic protocols for whole-yolk and explant techniques will be provided in this video, along with a discussion of the pros and cons of culturing chicks outside of the shell. Finally, experimental applications of ex ovo culture will be discussed, demonstrating how this approach is used to improve access to the embryo for microscopy and genetic manipulation of late stage embryos.…
Zebrafish Microinjection Techniques
One of the major advantages to working with zebrafish (Danio rerio) is that their genetics can be easily manipulated by microinjection of early stage embryos. Using this technique, solutions containing genetic material or knockdown constructs are delivered into the blastomeres: the embryonic cells sitting atop the yolk of the newly fertilized egg. Delivery into the cytoplasm is achieved either through direct injection into the blastomere, or via natural cytoplasmic movements that occur after a solution is injected into the yolk. Successful genetic manipulations are usually followed by quantification of embryonic phenotypes in order to elucidate the genetic mechanisms of development. This video will provide an introduction to carrying out microinjections in zebrafish embryos. The discussion begins with a review of the essential tools for the technique, including the injection apparatus and the microinjector, which controls fluid movement with pressure pulses of air. Next, important preparatory steps are demonstrated, such as the pouring of agar plates to stabilize embryos during injection and calibration of the microinjection apparatus. The injection procedure is then presented along with tips on when and where injections should be performed. Finally, applications of the microinjection technique are discussed, including gene overexpression via mRNA injection, gene silencing by delivery of antisense morpholino oligonu…