We designed a loading device that is capable of applying uniaxial or biaxial mechanical strain to a tissue engineered biocomposites fabricated for transplantation. While the device primarily functions as a bioreactor that mimics the native mechanical strains, it is also outfitted with a load cell for providing force feedback or mechanical testing of the constructs. The device subjects engineered cartilage constructs to biaxial mechanical loading with great precision of loading dose (amplitude and frequency) and is compact enough to fit inside a standard tissue culture incubator. It loads samples directly in a tissue culture plate, and multiple plate sizes are compatible with the system. The device has been designed using components manufactured for precision-guided laser applications. Bi-axial loading is accomplished by two orthogonal stages. The stages have a 50 mm travel range and are driven independently by stepper motor actuators, controlled by a closed-loop stepper motor driver that features micro-stepping capabilities, enabling step sizes of less than 50 nm. A polysulfone loading platen is coupled to the bi-axial moving platform. Movements of the stages are controlled by Thor-labs Advanced Positioning Technology (APT) software. The stepper motor driver is used with the software to adjust load parameters of frequency and amplitude of both shear and compression independently and simultaneously. Positional feedback is provided by linear optical encoders that have a bidirectional repeatability of 0.1 μm and a resolution of 20 nm, translating to a positional accuracy of less than 3 μm over the full 50 mm of travel. These encoders provide the necessary position feedback to the drive electronics to ensure true nanopositioning capabilities. In order to provide the force feedback to detect contact and evaluate loading responses, a precision miniature load cell is positioned between the loading platen and the moving platform. The load cell has high accuracies of 0.15% to 0.25% full scale.
24 Related JoVE Articles!
A Method for Culturing Embryonic C. elegans Cells
Institutions: University of Miami .
is a powerful model system, in which genetic and molecular techniques are easily applicable. Until recently though, techniques that require direct access to cells and isolation of specific cell types, could not be applied in C. elegans
. This limitation was due to the fact that tissues are confined within a pressurized cuticle which is not easily digested by treatment with enzymes and/or detergents. Based on early pioneer work by Laird Bloom, Christensen and colleagues 1
developed a robust method for culturing C. elegans
embryonic cells in large scale. Eggs are isolated from gravid adults by treatment with bleach/NaOH and subsequently treated with chitinase to remove the eggshells. Embryonic cells are then dissociated by manual pipetting and plated onto substrate-covered glass in serum-enriched media. Within 24 hr of isolation cells begin to differentiate by changing morphology and by expressing cell specific markers. C. elegans
cells cultured using this method survive for up 2 weeks in vitro
and have been used for electrophysiological, immunochemical, and imaging analyses as well as they have been sorted and used for microarray profiling.
Developmental Biology, Issue 79, Eukaryota, Biological Phenomena, Cell Physiological Phenomena, C. elegans, cell culture, embryonic cells
Visualizing Neuroblast Cytokinesis During C. elegans Embryogenesis
Institutions: Concordia University.
This protocol describes the use of fluorescence microscopy to image dividing cells within developing Caenorhabditis elegans
embryos. In particular, this protocol focuses on how to image dividing neuroblasts, which are found underneath the epidermal cells and may be important for epidermal morphogenesis. Tissue formation is crucial for metazoan development and relies on external cues from neighboring tissues. C. elegans
is an excellent model organism to study tissue morphogenesis in vivo
due to its transparency and simple organization, making its tissues easy to study via microscopy. Ventral enclosure is the process where the ventral surface of the embryo is covered by a single layer of epithelial cells. This event is thought to be facilitated by the underlying neuroblasts, which provide chemical guidance cues to mediate migration of the overlying epithelial cells. However, the neuroblasts are highly proliferative and also may act as a mechanical substrate for the ventral epidermal cells. Studies using this experimental protocol could uncover the importance of intercellular communication during tissue formation, and could be used to reveal the roles of genes involved in cell division within developing tissues.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, C. elegans, morphogenesis, cytokinesis, neuroblasts, anillin, microscopy, cell division
Analyzing Craniofacial Morphogenesis in Zebrafish Using 4D Confocal Microscopy
Institutions: The University of Texas at Austin.
Time-lapse imaging is a technique that allows for the direct observation of the process of morphogenesis, or the generation of shape. Due to their optical clarity and amenability to genetic manipulation, the zebrafish embryo has become a popular model organism with which to perform time-lapse analysis of morphogenesis in living embryos. Confocal imaging of a live zebrafish embryo requires that a tissue of interest is persistently labeled with a fluorescent marker, such as a transgene or injected dye. The process demands that the embryo is anesthetized and held in place in such a way that healthy development proceeds normally. Parameters for imaging must be set to account for three-dimensional growth and to balance the demands of resolving individual cells while getting quick snapshots of development. Our results demonstrate the ability to perform long-term in vivo
imaging of fluorescence-labeled zebrafish embryos and to detect varied tissue behaviors in the cranial neural crest that cause craniofacial abnormalities. Developmental delays caused by anesthesia and mounting are minimal, and embryos are unharmed by the process. Time-lapse imaged embryos can be returned to liquid medium and subsequently imaged or fixed at later points in development. With an increasing abundance of transgenic zebrafish lines and well-characterized fate mapping and transplantation techniques, imaging any desired tissue is possible. As such, time-lapse in vivo
imaging combines powerfully with zebrafish genetic methods, including analyses of mutant and microinjected embryos.
Developmental Biology, Issue 83, zebrafish, neural crest, time-lapse, transgenic, morphogenesis, craniofacial, head, development, confocal, Microscopy, In vivo, movie
Analysis of Oxidative Stress in Zebrafish Embryos
Institutions: University of Torino, Vesalius Research Center, VIB.
High levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) may cause a change of cellular redox state towards oxidative stress condition. This situation causes oxidation of molecules (lipid, DNA, protein) and leads to cell death. Oxidative stress also impacts the progression of several pathological conditions such as diabetes, retinopathies, neurodegeneration, and cancer. Thus, it is important to define tools to investigate oxidative stress conditions not only at the level of single cells but also in the context of whole organisms. Here, we consider the zebrafish embryo as a useful in vivo
system to perform such studies and present a protocol to measure in vivo
oxidative stress. Taking advantage of fluorescent ROS probes and zebrafish transgenic fluorescent lines, we develop two different methods to measure oxidative stress in vivo
: i) a “whole embryo ROS-detection method” for qualitative measurement of oxidative stress and ii) a “single-cell ROS detection method” for quantitative measurements of oxidative stress. Herein, we demonstrate the efficacy of these procedures by increasing oxidative stress in tissues by oxidant agents and physiological or genetic methods. This protocol is amenable for forward genetic screens and it will help address cause-effect relationships of ROS in animal models of oxidative stress-related pathologies such as neurological disorders and cancer.
Developmental Biology, Issue 89, Danio rerio, zebrafish embryos, endothelial cells, redox state analysis, oxidative stress detection, in vivo ROS measurements, FACS (fluorescence activated cell sorter), molecular probes
Scalable Nanohelices for Predictive Studies and Enhanced 3D Visualization
Institutions: University of California Merced, University of California Merced.
Spring-like materials are ubiquitous in nature and of interest in nanotechnology for energy harvesting, hydrogen storage, and biological sensing applications. For predictive simulations, it has become increasingly important to be able to model the structure of nanohelices accurately. To study the effect of local structure on the properties of these complex geometries one must develop realistic models. To date, software packages are rather limited in creating atomistic helical models. This work focuses on producing atomistic models of silica glass (SiO2
) nanoribbons and nanosprings for molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Using an MD model of “bulk” silica glass, two computational procedures to precisely create the shape of nanoribbons and nanosprings are presented. The first method employs the AWK programming language and open-source software to effectively carve various shapes of silica nanoribbons from the initial bulk model, using desired dimensions and parametric equations to define a helix. With this method, accurate atomistic silica nanoribbons can be generated for a range of pitch values and dimensions. The second method involves a more robust code which allows flexibility in modeling nanohelical structures. This approach utilizes a C++ code particularly written to implement pre-screening methods as well as the mathematical equations for a helix, resulting in greater precision and efficiency when creating nanospring models. Using these codes, well-defined and scalable nanoribbons and nanosprings suited for atomistic simulations can be effectively created. An added value in both open-source codes is that they can be adapted to reproduce different helical structures, independent of material. In addition, a MATLAB graphical user interface (GUI) is used to enhance learning through visualization and interaction for a general user with the atomistic helical structures. One application of these methods is the recent study of nanohelices via MD simulations for mechanical energy harvesting purposes.
Physics, Issue 93, Helical atomistic models; open-source coding; graphical user interface; visualization software; molecular dynamics simulations; graphical processing unit accelerated simulations.
A Novel Stretching Platform for Applications in Cell and Tissue Mechanobiology
Institutions: University of Ottawa, University of Ottawa, University of Calgary, University of Ottawa, University of Ottawa.
Tools that allow the application of mechanical forces to cells and tissues or that can quantify the mechanical properties of biological tissues have contributed dramatically to the understanding of basic mechanobiology. These techniques have been extensively used to demonstrate how the onset and progression of various diseases are heavily influenced by mechanical cues. This article presents a multi-functional biaxial stretching (BAXS) platform that can either mechanically stimulate single cells or quantify the mechanical stiffness of tissues. The BAXS platform consists of four voice coil motors that can be controlled independently. Single cells can be cultured on a flexible substrate that can be attached to the motors allowing one to expose the cells to complex, dynamic, and spatially varying strain fields. Conversely, by incorporating a force load cell, one can also quantify the mechanical properties of primary tissues as they are exposed to deformation cycles. In both cases, a proper set of clamps must be designed and mounted to the BAXS platform motors in order to firmly hold the flexible substrate or the tissue of interest. The BAXS platform can be mounted on an inverted microscope to perform simultaneous transmitted light and/or fluorescence imaging to examine the structural or biochemical response of the sample during stretching experiments. This article provides experimental details of the design and usage of the BAXS platform and presents results for single cell and whole tissue studies. The BAXS platform was used to measure the deformation of nuclei in single mouse myoblast cells in response to substrate strain and to measure the stiffness of isolated mouse aortas. The BAXS platform is a versatile tool that can be combined with various optical microscopies in order to provide novel mechanobiological insights at the sub-cellular, cellular and whole tissue levels.
Bioengineering, Issue 88, cell stretching, tissue mechanics, nuclear mechanics, uniaxial, biaxial, anisotropic, mechanobiology
Adjustable Stiffness, External Fixator for the Rat Femur Osteotomy and Segmental Bone Defect Models
Institutions: Queensland University of Technology, RISystem AG.
The mechanical environment around the healing of broken bone is very important as it determines the way the fracture will heal. Over the past decade there has been great clinical interest in improving bone healing by altering the mechanical environment through the fixation stability around the lesion. One constraint of preclinical animal research in this area is the lack of experimental control over the local mechanical environment within a large segmental defect as well as osteotomies as they heal. In this paper we report on the design and use of an external fixator to study the healing of large segmental bone defects or osteotomies. This device not only allows for controlled axial stiffness on the bone lesion as it heals, but it also enables the change of stiffness during the healing process in vivo.
The conducted experiments have shown that the fixators were able to maintain a 5 mm femoral defect gap in rats in vivo
during unrestricted cage activity for at least 8 weeks. Likewise, we observed no distortion or infections, including pin infections during the entire healing period. These results demonstrate that our newly developed external fixator was able to achieve reproducible and standardized stabilization, and the alteration of the mechanical environment of in vivo
rat large bone defects and various size osteotomies. This confirms that the external fixation device is well suited for preclinical research investigations using a rat model in the field of bone regeneration and repair.
Medicine, Issue 92, external fixator, bone healing, small animal model, large bone defect and osteotomy model, rat model, mechanical environment, mechanobiology.
An Ex vivo Culture System to Study Thyroid Development
Institutions: Université catholique de Louvain & de Duve Institute.
The thyroid is a bilobated endocrine gland localized at the base of the neck, producing the thyroid hormones T3, T4, and calcitonin. T3 and T4 are produced by differentiated thyrocytes, organized in closed spheres called follicles, while calcitonin is synthesized by C-cells, interspersed in between the follicles and a dense network of blood capillaries. Although adult thyroid architecture and functions have been extensively described and studied, the formation of the “angio-follicular” units, the distribution of C-cells in the parenchyma and the paracrine communications between epithelial and endothelial cells is far from being understood.
This method describes the sequential steps of mouse embryonic thyroid anlagen dissection and its culture on semiporous filters or on microscopy plastic slides. Within a period of four days, this culture system faithfully recapitulates in vivo
thyroid development. Indeed, (i) bilobation of the organ occurs (for e12.5 explants), (ii) thyrocytes precursors organize into follicles and polarize, (iii) thyrocytes and C-cells differentiate, and (iv) endothelial cells present in the microdissected tissue proliferate, migrate into the thyroid lobes, and closely associate with the epithelial cells, as they do in vivo
Thyroid tissues can be obtained from wild type, knockout or fluorescent transgenic embryos. Moreover, explants culture can be manipulated by addition of inhibitors, blocking antibodies, growth factors, or even cells or conditioned medium. Ex vivo
development can be analyzed in real-time, or at any time of the culture by immunostaining and RT-qPCR.
In conclusion, thyroid explant culture combined with downstream whole-mount or on sections imaging and gene expression profiling provides a powerful system for manipulating and studying morphogenetic and differentiation events of thyroid organogenesis.
Cellular Biology, Issue 88,
Development, cellular biology, thyroid, organ culture, epithelial morphogenesis, immunostaining, imaging, RNA
Analysis of Nephron Composition and Function in the Adult Zebrafish Kidney
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish model has emerged as a relevant system to study kidney development, regeneration and disease. Both the embryonic and adult zebrafish kidneys are composed of functional units known as nephrons, which are highly conserved with other vertebrates, including mammals. Research in zebrafish has recently demonstrated that two distinctive phenomena transpire after adult nephrons incur damage: first, there is robust regeneration within existing nephrons that replaces the destroyed tubule epithelial cells; second, entirely new nephrons are produced from renal progenitors in a process known as neonephrogenesis. In contrast, humans and other mammals seem to have only a limited ability for nephron epithelial regeneration. To date, the mechanisms responsible for these kidney regeneration phenomena remain poorly understood. Since adult zebrafish kidneys undergo both nephron epithelial regeneration and neonephrogenesis, they provide an outstanding experimental paradigm to study these events. Further, there is a wide range of genetic and pharmacological tools available in the zebrafish model that can be used to delineate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate renal regeneration. One essential aspect of such research is the evaluation of nephron structure and function. This protocol describes a set of labeling techniques that can be used to gauge renal composition and test nephron functionality in the adult zebrafish kidney. Thus, these methods are widely applicable to the future phenotypic characterization of adult zebrafish kidney injury paradigms, which include but are not limited to, nephrotoxicant exposure regimes or genetic methods of targeted cell death such as the nitroreductase mediated cell ablation technique. Further, these methods could be used to study genetic perturbations in adult kidney formation and could also be applied to assess renal status during chronic disease modeling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 90,
zebrafish; kidney; nephron; nephrology; renal; regeneration; proximal tubule; distal tubule; segment; mesonephros; physiology; acute kidney injury (AKI)
Isolation and Culture of Dissociated Sensory Neurons From Chick Embryos
Institutions: Assumption College.
Neurons are multifaceted cells that carry information essential for a variety of functions including sensation, motor movement, learning, and memory. Studying neurons in vivo
can be challenging due to their complexity, their varied and dynamic environments, and technical limitations. For these reasons, studying neurons in vitro
can prove beneficial to unravel the complex mysteries of neurons. The well-defined nature of cell culture models provides detailed control over environmental conditions and variables. Here we describe how to isolate, dissociate, and culture primary neurons from chick embryos. This technique is rapid, inexpensive, and generates robustly growing sensory neurons. The procedure consistently produces cultures that are highly enriched for neurons and has very few non-neuronal cells (less than 5%). Primary neurons do not adhere well to untreated glass or tissue culture plastic, therefore detailed procedures to create two distinct, well-defined laminin-containing substrata for neuronal plating are described. Cultured neurons are highly amenable to multiple cellular and molecular techniques, including co-immunoprecipitation, live cell imagining, RNAi, and immunocytochemistry. Procedures for double immunocytochemistry on these cultured neurons have been optimized and described here.
Neuroscience, Issue 91, dorsal root gangia, DRG, chicken, in vitro, avian, laminin-1, embryonic, primary
High Efficiency Differentiation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells to Cardiomyocytes and Characterization by Flow Cytometry
Institutions: Medical College of Wisconsin, Stanford University School of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Hong Kong University, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin.
There is an urgent need to develop approaches for repairing the damaged heart, discovering new therapeutic drugs that do not have toxic effects on the heart, and improving strategies to accurately model heart disease. The potential of exploiting human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) technology to generate cardiac muscle “in a dish” for these applications continues to generate high enthusiasm. In recent years, the ability to efficiently generate cardiomyogenic cells from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) has greatly improved, offering us new opportunities to model very early stages of human cardiac development not otherwise accessible. In contrast to many previous methods, the cardiomyocyte differentiation protocol described here does not require cell aggregation or the addition of Activin A or BMP4 and robustly generates cultures of cells that are highly positive for cardiac troponin I and T (TNNI3, TNNT2), iroquois-class homeodomain protein IRX-4 (IRX4), myosin regulatory light chain 2, ventricular/cardiac muscle isoform (MLC2v) and myosin regulatory light chain 2, atrial isoform (MLC2a) by day 10 across all human embryonic stem cell (hESC) and hiPSC lines tested to date. Cells can be passaged and maintained for more than 90 days in culture. The strategy is technically simple to implement and cost-effective. Characterization of cardiomyocytes derived from pluripotent cells often includes the analysis of reference markers, both at the mRNA and protein level. For protein analysis, flow cytometry is a powerful analytical tool for assessing quality of cells in culture and determining subpopulation homogeneity. However, technical variation in sample preparation can significantly affect quality of flow cytometry data. Thus, standardization of staining protocols should facilitate comparisons among various differentiation strategies. Accordingly, optimized staining protocols for the analysis of IRX4, MLC2v, MLC2a, TNNI3, and TNNT2 by flow cytometry are described.
Cellular Biology, Issue 91, human induced pluripotent stem cell, flow cytometry, directed differentiation, cardiomyocyte, IRX4, TNNI3, TNNT2, MCL2v, MLC2a
Environmentally-controlled Microtensile Testing of Mechanically-adaptive Polymer Nanocomposites for ex vivo Characterization
Institutions: Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve University.
Implantable microdevices are gaining significant attention for several biomedical applications1-4
. Such devices have been made from a range of materials, each offering its own advantages and shortcomings5,6
. Most prominently, due to the microscale device dimensions, a high modulus is required to facilitate implantation into living tissue. Conversely, the stiffness of the device should match the surrounding tissue to minimize induced local strain7-9
. Therefore, we recently developed a new class of bio-inspired materials to meet these requirements by responding to environmental stimuli with a change in mechanical properties10-14
. Specifically, our poly(vinyl acetate)-based nanocomposite (PVAc-NC) displays a reduction in stiffness when exposed to water and elevated temperatures (e.g.
body temperature). Unfortunately, few methods exist to quantify the stiffness of materials in vivo15
, and mechanical testing outside of the physiological environment often requires large samples inappropriate for implantation. Further, stimuli-responsive materials may quickly recover their initial stiffness after explantation. Therefore, we have developed a method by which the mechanical properties of implanted microsamples can be measured ex vivo
, with simulated physiological conditions maintained using moisture and temperature control13,16,17
To this end, a custom microtensile tester was designed to accommodate microscale samples13,17
with widely-varying Young's moduli (range of 10 MPa to 5 GPa). As our interests are in the application of PVAc-NC as a biologically-adaptable neural probe substrate, a tool capable of mechanical characterization of samples at the microscale was necessary. This tool was adapted to provide humidity and temperature control, which minimized sample drying and cooling17
. As a result, the mechanical characteristics of the explanted sample closely reflect those of the sample just prior to explantation.
The overall goal of this method is to quantitatively assess the in vivo
mechanical properties, specifically the Young's modulus, of stimuli-responsive, mechanically-adaptive polymer-based materials. This is accomplished by first establishing the environmental conditions that will minimize a change in sample mechanical properties after explantation without contributing to a reduction in stiffness independent of that resulting from implantation. Samples are then prepared for implantation, handling, and testing (Figure 1A
). Each sample is implanted into the cerebral cortex of rats, which is represented here as an explanted rat brain, for a specified duration (Figure 1B
). At this point, the sample is explanted and immediately loaded into the microtensile tester, and then subjected to tensile testing (Figure 1C
). Subsequent data analysis provides insight into the mechanical behavior of these innovative materials in the environment of the cerebral cortex.
Bioengineering, Issue 78, Biophysics, Biomedical Engineering, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Electrical Engineering, Materials Science, Nanotechnology, Nanocomposites, Electrodes, Implanted, Neural Prostheses, Micro-Electrical-Mechanical Systems, Implants, Experimental, mechanical properties (composite materials), Dynamic materials, polymer nanocomposite, Young's modulus, modulus of elasticity, intracortical microelectrode, polymers, biomaterials
Cell Tracking Using Photoconvertible Proteins During Zebrafish Development
Institutions: Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine.
Embryogenesis is a dynamic process that is best studied by using techniques that allow the documentation of developmental changes in vivo
. The use of genetically-encoded fluorescent proteins has proven a valuable strategy for elucidating dynamic morphogenetic processes as they occur in the intact organism. During the past decade, the development of photoactivatable and photoconvertible fluorescent proteins has opened the possibility to investigate the fate of discrete subpopulations of tagged proteins1
. Unlike photoactivatable proteins, photoconvertible fluorescent proteins (PCFPs) are readily tracked and imaged in their native emission state prior to photoconversion, making it easier to identify and select regions by optical inspection. PCFPs, such as Kaede2
, can be shifted from green to red upon exposure to UV or blue light due to a His-Tyr-Gly tripeptide sequence which forms a green chromophore that can be photoconverted to a red one by a light-catalyzed β-elimination and subsequent extension of a π-conjugated system3
. PCFPs and their monomeric variants are useful tools for tracking cells6-10
and studying protein dynamics11-14
, respectively. During recent years, PCFPs have been expressed in different animal model, such as zebrafish6
for cell fate tracking. Here we report a protocol for cell-specific photoconversion of PCFPs in the living zebrafish embryo and further tracking of photoconverted proteins at later developmental stages. This methodology allows studying, in a tissue-specific manner, cell biological events underlying morphogenesis in the zebrafish animal model.
Developmental Biology, Issue 67, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Cell tracking, live cell imaging, photoconvertible fluorescent proteins, tissue morphogenesis, Danio rerio, zebrafish, embryo
Local and Global Methods of Assessing Thermal Nociception in Drosophila Larvae
Institutions: The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Houston-Downtown, University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
In this article, we demonstrate assays to study thermal nociception in Drosophila
larvae. One assay involves spatially-restricted (local) stimulation of thermal nociceptors1,2
while the second involves a wholesale (global) activation of most or all such neurons3
. Together, these techniques allow visualization and quantification of the behavioral functions of Drosophila
nociceptive sensory neurons.
larva is an established model system to study thermal nociception, a sensory response to potentially harmful temperatures that is evolutionarily conserved across species1,2
. The advantages of Drosophila
for such studies are the relative simplicity of its nervous system and the sophistication of the genetic techniques that can be used to dissect the molecular basis of the underlying biology4-6
, as in all metazoans, the response to noxious thermal stimuli generally involves a "nocifensive" aversive withdrawal to the presented stimulus7
. Such stimuli are detected through free nerve endings or nociceptors and the amplitude of the organismal response depends on the number of nociceptors receiving the noxious stimulus8
. In Drosophila
, it is the class IV dendritic arborization sensory neurons that detect noxious thermal and mechanical stimuli9
in addition to their recently discovered role as photoreceptors10
. These neurons, which have been very well studied at the developmental level, arborize over the barrier epidermal sheet and make contacts with nearly all epidermal cells11,12
. The single axon of each class IV neuron projects into the ventral nerve cord of the central nervous system11
where they may connect to second-order neurons that project to the brain.
Under baseline conditions, nociceptive sensory neurons will not fire until a relatively high threshold is reached. The assays described here allow the investigator to quantify baseline behavioral responses or, presumably, the sensitization that ensues following tissue damage. Each assay provokes distinct but related locomotory behavioral responses to noxious thermal stimuli and permits the researcher to visualize and quantify various aspects of thermal nociception in Drosophila
larvae. The assays can be applied to larvae of desired genotypes or to larvae raised under different environmental conditions that might impact nociception. Since thermal nociception is conserved across species, the findings gleaned from genetic dissection in Drosophila
will likely inform our understanding of thermal nociception in other species, including vertebrates.
Neuroscience, Issue 63, Drosophila sensory neurons, thermal nociception, nociceptive sensitization, tissue damage, fly behavioral response, dendritic arborization neurons, allodynia, hyperalgesia, behavioral assay
Creating Objects and Object Categories for Studying Perception and Perceptual Learning
Institutions: Georgia Health Sciences University, Georgia Health Sciences University, Georgia Health Sciences University, Palo Alto Research Center, Palo Alto Research Center, University of Minnesota .
In order to quantitatively study object perception, be it perception by biological systems or by machines, one needs to create objects and object categories with precisely definable, preferably naturalistic, properties1
. Furthermore, for studies on perceptual learning, it is useful to create novel objects and object categories (or object classes
) with such properties2
Many innovative and useful methods currently exist for creating novel objects and object categories3-6
(also see refs. 7,8). However, generally speaking, the existing methods have three broad types of shortcomings.
First, shape variations are generally imposed by the experimenter5,9,10
, and may therefore be different from the variability in natural categories, and optimized for a particular recognition algorithm. It would be desirable to have the variations arise independently of the externally imposed constraints.
Second, the existing methods have difficulty capturing the shape complexity of natural objects11-13
. If the goal is to study natural object perception, it is desirable for objects and object categories to be naturalistic, so as to avoid possible confounds and special cases.
Third, it is generally hard to quantitatively measure the available information in the stimuli created by conventional methods. It would be desirable to create objects and object categories where the available information can be precisely measured and, where necessary, systematically manipulated (or 'tuned'). This allows one to formulate the underlying object recognition tasks in quantitative terms.
Here we describe a set of algorithms, or methods, that meet all three of the above criteria. Virtual morphogenesis (VM) creates novel, naturalistic virtual 3-D objects called 'digital embryos' by simulating the biological process of embryogenesis14
. Virtual phylogenesis (VP) creates novel, naturalistic object categories by simulating the evolutionary process of natural selection9,12,13
. Objects and object categories created by these simulations can be further manipulated by various morphing methods to generate systematic variations of shape characteristics15,16
. The VP and morphing methods can also be applied, in principle, to novel virtual objects other than digital embryos, or to virtual versions of real-world objects9,13
. Virtual objects created in this fashion can be rendered as visual images using a conventional graphical toolkit, with desired manipulations of surface texture, illumination, size, viewpoint and background. The virtual objects can also be 'printed' as haptic objects using a conventional 3-D prototyper.
We also describe some implementations of these computational algorithms to help illustrate the potential utility of the algorithms. It is important to distinguish the algorithms from their implementations. The implementations are demonstrations offered solely as a 'proof of principle' of the underlying algorithms. It is important to note that, in general, an implementation of a computational algorithm often has limitations that the algorithm itself does not have.
Together, these methods represent a set of powerful and flexible tools for studying object recognition and perceptual learning by biological and computational systems alike. With appropriate extensions, these methods may also prove useful in the study of morphogenesis and phylogenesis.
Neuroscience, Issue 69, machine learning, brain, classification, category learning, cross-modal perception, 3-D prototyping, inference
Tracking Morphogenetic Tissue Deformations in the Early Chick Embryo
Institutions: Washington University, Russian Academy of Sciences, Washington University.
Embryonic epithelia undergo complex deformations (e.g. bending, twisting, folding, and stretching) to form the primitive organs of the early embryo. Tracking fiducial markers on the surfaces of these cellular sheets is a well-established method for estimating morphogenetic quantities such as growth, contraction, and shear. However, not all surface labeling techniques are readily adaptable to conventional imaging modalities and possess different advantages and limitations. Here, we describe two labeling methods and illustrate the utility of each technique. In the first method, hundreds of fluorescent labels are applied simultaneously to the embryo using magnetic iron particles. These labels are then used to quantity 2-D tissue deformations during morphogenesis. In the second method, polystyrene microspheres are used as contrast agents in non-invasive optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging to track 3-D tissue deformations. These techniques have been successfully implemented in our lab to studythe physical mechanisms of early head fold, heart, and brain development, and should be adaptable to a wide range morphogenetic processes.
Developmental Biology, Issue 56, biomechanics, labeling, chick embryo, morphogenesis, time-lapse imaging, optical coherence tomography, strain analysis
Biophysical Assays to Probe the Mechanical Properties of the Interphase Cell Nucleus: Substrate Strain Application and Microneedle Manipulation
Institutions: Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Division, Cornell University.
In most eukaryotic cells, the nucleus is the largest organelle and is typically 2 to 10 times stiffer than the surrounding cytoskeleton; consequently, the physical properties of the nucleus contribute significantly to the overall biomechanical behavior of cells under physiological and pathological conditions. For example, in migrating neutrophils and invading cancer cells, nuclear stiffness can pose a major obstacle during extravasation or passage through narrow spaces within tissues.1
On the other hand, the nucleus of cells in mechanically active tissue such as muscle requires sufficient structural support to withstand repetitive mechanical stress. Importantly, the nucleus is tightly integrated into the cellular architecture; it is physically connected to the surrounding cytoskeleton, which is a critical requirement for the intracellular movement and positioning of the nucleus, for example, in polarized cells, synaptic nuclei at neuromuscular junctions, or in migrating cells.2
Not surprisingly, mutations in nuclear envelope proteins such as lamins and nesprins, which play a critical role in determining nuclear stiffness and nucleo-cytoskeletal coupling, have been shown recently to result in a number of human diseases, including Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, and dilated cardiomyopathy.3
To investigate the biophysical function of diverse nuclear envelope proteins and the effect of specific mutations, we have developed experimental methods to study the physical properties of the nucleus in single, living cells subjected to global or localized mechanical perturbation. Measuring induced nuclear deformations in response to precisely applied substrate strain application yields important information on the deformability of the nucleus and allows quantitative comparison between different mutations or cell lines deficient for specific nuclear envelope proteins. Localized cytoskeletal strain application with a microneedle is used to complement this assay and can yield additional information on intracellular force transmission between the nucleus and the cytoskeleton. Studying nuclear mechanics in intact living cells preserves the normal intracellular architecture and avoids potential artifacts that can arise when working with isolated nuclei. Furthermore, substrate strain application presents a good model for the physiological stress experienced by cells in muscle or other tissues (e.g., vascular smooth muscle cells exposed to vessel strain). Lastly, while these tools have been developed primarily to study nuclear mechanics, they can also be applied to investigate the function of cytoskeletal proteins and mechanotransduction signaling.
Biophysics, Issue 55, nuclear envelope, nuclear stiffness, nucleo-cytoskeletal coupling, lamin, nesprin, cytoskeleton, biomechanics, nuclear deformation, force transmission
Organotypic Slice Culture of E18 Rat Brains
Institutions: University of California, San Francisco - UCSF.
Organotypic slice cultures from embryonic rodent brains are widely used to study brain development. While there are often advantages to an in-vivo system, organotypic slice cultures allow one to perform a number of manipulations that are not presently feasible in-vivo. To date, organtotypic embryonic brain slice cultures have been used to follow individual cells using time-lapse microscopy, manipulate the expression of genes in the ganglionic emanances (a region that is hard to target by in-utero electroporation), as well as for pharmacological studies. In this video protocol we demonstrate how to make organotypic slice cultures from rat embryonic day 18 embryos. The protocol involves dissecting the embryos, embedding them on ice in low melt agarose, slicing the embedded brains on the vibratome, and finally plating the slices onto filters in culture dishes. This protocol is also applicable in its present form to making organotypic slice cultures from different embryonic ages for both rats and mice.
Neuroscience, Issue 6, brain, culture, dissection, rat
The Preparation of Drosophila Embryos for Live-Imaging Using the Hanging Drop Protocol
Institutions: University of Waterloo.
Green fluorescent protein (GFP)-based timelapse live-imaging is a powerful technique for studying the genetic regulation of dynamic processes such as tissue morphogenesis, cell-cell adhesion, or cell death. Drosophila embryos expressing GFP are readily imaged using either stereoscopic or confocal microscopy. A goal of any live-imaging protocol is to minimize detrimental effects such as dehydration and hypoxia. Previous protocols for preparing Drosophila embryos for live-imaging analysis have involved placing dechorionated embryos in halocarbon oil and sandwiching them between a halocarbon gas-permeable membrane and a coverslip1-3
. The introduction of compression through mounting embryos in this manner represents an undesirable complication for any biomechanical-based analysis of morphogenesis. Our method, which we call the hanging drop protocol, results in excellent viability of embryos during live imaging and does not require that embryos be compressed. Briefly, the hanging drop protocol involves the placement of embryos in a drop of halocarbon oil that is suspended from a coverslip, which is, in turn, fixed in position over a humid chamber. In addition to providing gas exchange and preventing dehydration, this arrangement takes advantage of the buoyancy of embryos in halocarbon oil to prevent them from drifting out of position during timelapse acquisition. This video describes in detail how to collect and prepare Drosophila embryos for live imaging using the hanging drop protocol. This protocol is suitable for imaging dechorionated embryos using stereomicroscopy or any upright compound fluorescence microscope.
Developmental Biology, Issue 25, Drosophila, embryos, live-imaging, GFP
Live Imaging of the Zebrafish Embryonic Brain by Confocal Microscopy
Institutions: MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In this video, we demonstrate the method our lab has developed to analyze the cell shape changes and rearrangements required to bend and fold the developing zebrafish brain (Gutzman et al, 2008). Such analysis affords a new understanding of the underlying cell biology required for development of the 3D structure of the vertebrate brain, and significantly increases our ability to study neural tube morphogenesis. The embryonic zebrafish brain is shaped beginning at 18 hours post fertilization (hpf) as the ventricles within the neuroepithelium inflate. By 24 hpf, the initial steps of neural tube morphogenesis are complete. Using the method described here, embryos at the one cell stage are injected with mRNA encoding membrane-targeted green fluorescent protein (memGFP). After injection and incubation, the embryo, now between 18 and 24 hpf, is mounted, inverted, in agarose and imaged by confocal microscopy. Notably, the zebrafish embryo is transparent making it an ideal system for fluorescent imaging. While our analyses have focused on the midbrain-hindbrain boundary and the hindbrain, this method could be extended for analysis of any region in the zebrafish to a depth of
Neuroscience, Developmental Biology, Issue 26, brain development, zebrafish, morphogenesis, microinjection, single cell injection, live imaging, confocal microscopy, embryo mounting
Zebrafish Brain Ventricle Injection
Institutions: Whitehead Institute for Biochemical Research, MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Proper brain ventricle formation during embryonic brain development is required for normal brain function. Brain ventricles are the highly conserved cavities within the brain that are filled with cerebrospinal fluid. In zebrafish, after neural tube formation, the neuroepithelium undergoes a series of constrictions and folds while it fills with fluid resulting in brain ventricle formation. In order to understand the process of ventricle formation, and the neuroepithelial shape changes that occur at the same time, we needed a way to visualize the ventricle space in comparison to the brain tissue. However, the nature of transparent zebrafish embryos makes it difficult to differentiate the tissue from the ventricle space. Therefore, we developed a brain ventricle injection technique where the ventricle space is filled with a fluorescent dye and imaged by brightfield and fluorescent microscopy. The brightfield and the fluorescent images are then processed and superimposed in Photoshop. This technique allows for visualization of the ventricle space with the fluorescent dye, in comparison to the shape of the neuroepithelium in the brightfield image. Brain ventricle injection in zebrafish can be employed from 18 hours post fertilization through early larval stages. We have used this technique extensively in our studies of brain ventricle formation and morphogenesis as well as in characterizing brain morphogenesis mutants (1-3).
Neuroscience, Issue 26, brain, ventricle, zebrafish, morphology, microinjection, development, imaging
Preparation of embryos for Electron Microscopy of the Drosophila embryonic heart tube
Institutions: UMDNJ-Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Rutgers: The State University of New Jersey, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
The morphogenesis of the Drosophila
embryonic heart tube has emerged as a valuable model system for studying cell migration, cell-cell adhesion and cell shape changes during embryonic development. One of the challenges faced in studying this structure is that the lumen of the heart tube, as well as the membrane features that are crucial to heart tube formation, are difficult to visualize in whole mount embryos, due to the small size of the heart tube and intra-lumenal space relative to the embryo. The use of transmission electron microscopy allows for higher magnification of these structures and gives the advantage of examining the embryos in cross section, which easily reveals the size and shape of the lumen. In this video, we detail the process for reliable fixation, embedding, and sectioning of late stage Drosophila
embryos in order to visualize the heart tube lumen as well as important cellular structures including cell-cell junctions and the basement membrane.
Developmental Biology, Issue 34, Drosophila, transmission electron microscopy, fixation, sectioning, embryonic heart tube, lumen
Visualization of the Embryonic Nervous System in Whole-mount Drosophila Embryos
Institutions: SUNY-University at Buffalo.
embryo is an attractive model system for investigating the cellular and molecular basis of neuronal development. Here we describe the procedure for the visualization of Drosophila
embryonic nervous system using antibodies to neuronal proteins. Since the entire embryonic peripheral nervous and central nervous systems are well characterized at the level of individual cells (Dambly-Chaudière et al.
, 1986; Bodmer et al.
, 1987; Bodmer et al.
, 1989), any aberrations to these systems can be easily identified using antibodies to different neuronal proteins. The developing embryos are collected at certain times to ensure that the embryos are in the proper developmental stages for visualization. After collection, the outer layers of the embryo, the chorion membrane and the vitelline envelope that surrounds the embryo, are removed before fixation. Embryos are then incubated with neuronal antibodies and visualized using fluorescently labeled secondary antibodies. Embryos at stages 12-17 are visualized to access the embryonic nervous system. At stage 12 the CNS germ band starts shortening and by stage 15 the definitive pattern of the commissure has been achieved. By stage 17 the CNS contracts and the PNS is fully developed (Campos-Ortega et al.
1985). Thus changes in the pattern of the PNS and CNS can be easily observed during these developmental stages.
Neuroscience, Issue 46, Drosophila neurobiology, Embryo, Immuno Fluorescence
Ex vivo Mechanical Loading of Tendon
Institutions: University of California, Berkeley , University of California, San Francisco.
Injuries to the tendon (e.g., wrist tendonitis, epicondyltis) due to overuse are common in sports activities and the workplace. Most are associated with repetitive, high force hand activities. The mechanisms of cellular and structural damage due to cyclical loading are not well known. The purpose of this video is to present a new system that can simultaneously load four tendons in tissue culture. The video describes the methods of sterile tissue harvest and how the tendons are loaded onto a clamping system that is subsequently immersed into media and maintained at 37°C. One clamp is fixed while the other one is moved with a linear actuator. Tendon tensile force is monitored with a load cell in series with the mobile clamp. The actuators are controlled with a LabView program. The four tendons can be repetitively loaded with different patterns of loading, repetition rate, rate of loading, and duration. Loading can continue for a few minutes to 48 hours. At the end of loading, the tendons are removed and the mid-substance extracted for biochemical analyses. This system allows for the investigation of the effects of loading patterns on gene expression and structural changes in tendon. Ultimately, mechanisms of injury due to overuse can be studies with the findings applied to treatment and prevention.
Developmental biology, issue 4, tendon, tension