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October, 2006
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Gastrointestinal Tract: Generally refers to the digestive structures stretching from the Mouth to Anus, but does not include the accessory glandular organs (Liver; Biliary tract; Pancreas).


JoVE 10907

During fertilization, an egg and sperm cell fuse to create a new diploid structure. In humans, the process occurs once the egg has been released from the ovary, and travels into the fallopian tubes. The process requires several key steps: 1) sperm present in the genital tract must locate the egg; 2) once there, sperm need to release enzymes to help them burrow through the protective zona pellucida of the egg; and 3) the membranes of a single sperm cell and egg must fuse, with the sperm releasing its contents—including its nucleus and centrosome—into the egg’s cytoplasm. If these steps are successful, the genetic material of the male and female gametes combine, and mitotic cell division commences, giving rise to a diploid embryo. The binding of the sperm and egg cell brings about various changes, among them the production of waves of calcium ions (Ca2+) pulsing through the egg cell. Such oscillations are initiated by sperm-egg fusion and result from both the release and uptake of endogenous Ca2+ in the endoplasmic reticulum of an egg cell and the simultaneous discharge and intake of such ions from the egg’s extracellular environment. Importantly, calcium signaling modifies the egg by causing vesicles, called cortical granules, that lay directly below its plasma membrane to release their contents into the open space bene

 Core: Reproduction and Development

Allergic Reactions

JoVE 10901

We speak of an allergy when the immune system triggers a response against a benign foreign structure, like food, pollen or pet dander. These elicitors are called allergens. If the immune system of a hypersensitive individual was primed against a specific allergen, it will trigger allergic symptoms during every subsequent encounter of the allergen. Symptoms can be mild, such as hay fever, to severe, such as potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. The immune system is crucial for defending an organism against bacteria, viruses, fungi, toxins, and parasites. However, in a hypersensitive response, it can be triggered by harmless substances and cause unpleasant or potentially life-threatening overreactions, called allergies. The first step toward establishing an allergy is sensitization. For instance, an individual becomes allergic to the pollen of ragweed when, for the first time, immune cells in the respiratory passage take up the pollen and degrade the allergens into fragments. These immune cells are called antigen-presenting cells, or APCs, because they display the degraded allergen fragments on their surface. Examples of APCs are dendritic cells, macrophages and B cells. Subsequently, APCs activate encountered Type 2 helper T cells (Th2). The activated Th2 then release chemical signals (e.g., cytokines) that cause B cells to differen

 Core: Immune System

Blood Flow

JoVE 10888

Blood is pumped by the heart into the aorta, the largest artery in the body, and then into increasingly smaller arteries, arterioles, and capillaries. The velocity of blood flow decreases with increased cross-sectional blood vessel area. As blood returns to the heart through venules and veins, its velocity increases. The movement of blood is encouraged by smooth muscle in the vessel walls, the movement of skeletal muscle surrounding the vessels, and one-way valves that prevent backflow. Somewhat counterintuitively, the velocity of blood flow decreases as it enters blood vessels with smaller diameters. If a hose is squeezed, decreasing its diameter, water will squirt out faster and harder, but this does not occur when blood moves into blood vessels with smaller diameters. This is because blood does not simply move from one blood vessel into a smaller one, but travels from a blood vessel into multiple smaller blood vessels. The total cross-sectional area of these smaller blood vessels is greater than that of the original blood vessel. Additionally, the decreased diameter of individual vessels creates increased resistance. Therefore, as blood enters smaller blood vessels, it slows down, providing time for gas exchange to occur through the walls of small capillaries. Blood flow is directed by vasodilation and vasoconstriction. Chemical signals can cause blood

 Core: Circulatory and Pulmonary Systems

Neural Regulation

JoVE 10835

Digestion begins with a cephalic phase that prepares the digestive system to receive food. When our brain processes visual or olfactory information about food, it triggers impulses in the cranial nerves innervating the salivary glands and stomach to prepare for food.

The cephalic phase is a conditioned or learned response to familiar foods. Our appetite or desire for a particular food modifies the preparatory responses directed by the brain. Individuals may produce more saliva and stomach rumblings in anticipation of apple pie than of broccoli. Appetite and desire are products of the hypothalamus and amygdala—brain areas associated with visceral processes and emotion. After the cephalic phase, digestion is governed by the enteric nervous system (ENS) as an unconditioned reflex. Individuals do not have to learn how to digest food; it happens regardless of whether it is apple pie or broccoli. The ENS is unique in that it functions (mostly) independent of the brain. About 90% of the communication are messages sent from the ENS to the brain rather than the other way around. These messages give the brain information about satiety, nausea, or bloating. The ENS, as part of the peripheral nervous system, is also unique in that it contains both motor and sensory neurons. For example, the ENS directs smooth muscle movements that churn and propel food al

 Core: Nutrition and Digestion

Accessory Organs

JoVE 10831

Accessory organs are those that participate in the digestion of food but do not come into direct contact with it like the mouth, stomach, or intestine do. Accessory organs secrete enzymes into the digestive tract to facilitate the breakdown of food.

Salivary glands secrete saliva—a complex liquid containing in part water, mucus, and amylase. Amylase is a digestive enzyme that begins breaking down starches and other carbohydrates even before they reach the stomach. The liver, gallbladder, and pancreas are the other accessory organs involved in digestion. All three secrete enzymes into the duodenum of the small intestine via a series of channels called the biliary tree. The liver and gallbladder work together to release bile into the duodenum. The liver produces bile, but it is stored in the gallbladder for secretion when needed. Bile is a mixture of water, bile salts, cholesterol, and bilirubin. Bile salts contain hydrophobic areas and hydrophilic areas which allows it to engage with both fats and water. Thus it breaks down large fat globules into smaller ones—a process called emulsification. Bilirubin is a waste product that accumulates when the liver breaks hemoglobin from red blood cells. The globin is recycled and the heme, which contains iron, is excreted in the bile. The presence of bilirubin is what gives feces its brown color

 Core: Nutrition and Digestion

Animal Diversity- Concept

JoVE 10637

Kingdom Animalia is composed of a range of organisms united by a set of common characteristics. Barring a few exceptions, animals are multicellular eukaryotes that move, consume organic matter, and reproduce sexually. Although these attributes are shared, species within this kingdom are also extremely diverse. This diversity is due to adaptation of each species to a different niche. The niche…

 Lab Bio
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