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Journal: Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE


A key challenge in studying reward processing in humans is to go beyond subjective self-report measures and quantify different aspects of reward such as hedonics, motivation, and goal value in more objective ways. This is particularly relevant for the understanding of overeating and obesity as well as their potential treatments. In this paper are described a set of measures of food-related motivation using handgrip force as a motivational measure. These methods can be used to examine changes in food related motivation with metabolic (satiety) and pharmacological manipulations and can be used to evaluate interventions targeted at overeating and obesity. However to understand food-related decision making in the complex food environment it is essential to be able to ascertain the reward goal values that guide the decisions and behavioral choices that people make. These values are hidden but it is possible to ascertain them more objectively using metrics such as the willingness to pay and a method for this is described. Both these sets of methods provide quantitative measures of motivation and goal value that can be compared within and between individuals.

Concepts: Decision making, Sociology, Cognition, Malnutrition, Motivation, Philosophy of life, Morality, Regulatory Focus Theory


Audio-based Environment Simulator (AbES) is virtual environment software designed to improve real world navigation skills in the blind. Using only audio based cues and set within the context of a video game metaphor, users gather relevant spatial information regarding a building’s layout. This allows the user to develop an accurate spatial cognitive map of a large-scale three-dimensional space that can be manipulated for the purposes of a real indoor navigation task. After game play, participants are then assessed on their ability to navigate within the target physical building represented in the game. Preliminary results suggest that early blind users were able to acquire relevant information regarding the spatial layout of a previously unfamiliar building as indexed by their performance on a series of navigation tasks. These tasks included path finding through the virtual and physical building, as well as a series of drop off tasks. We find that the immersive and highly interactive nature of the AbES software appears to greatly engage the blind user to actively explore the virtual environment. Applications of this approach may extend to larger populations of visually impaired individuals.

Concepts: Dimension, Navigation, Virtual reality, Play, Visual impairment, Video game, The Blind


Ice-binding proteins (IBPs), including antifreeze proteins, ice structuring proteins, thermal hysteresis proteins, and ice recrystallization inhibition proteins, are found in cold-adapted organisms and protect them from freeze injuries by interacting with ice crystals. IBPs are found in a variety of organism, including fish(1), plants(2, 3), arthropods(4, 5), fungi(6), and bacteria(7). IBPs adsorb to the surfaces of ice crystals and prevent water molecules from joining the ice lattice at the IBP adsorption location. Ice that grows on the crystal surface between the adsorbed IBPs develops a high curvature that lowers the temperature at which the ice crystals grow, a phenomenon referred to as the Gibbs-Thomson effect. This depression creates a gap (thermal hysteresis, TH) between the melting point and the nonequilibrium freezing point, within which ice growth is arrested(8-10), see Figure 1. One of the main tools used in IBP research is the nanoliter osmometer, which facilitates measurements of the TH activities of IBP solutions. Nanoliter osmometers, such as the Clifton instrument (Clifton Technical Physics, Hartford, NY,) and Otago instrument (Otago Osmometers, Dunedin, New Zealand), were designed to measure the osmolarity of a solution by measuring the melting point depression of droplets with nanoliter volumes. These devices were used to measure the osmolarities of biological samples, such as tears(11), and were found to be useful in IBP research. Manual control over these nanoliter osmometers limited the experimental possibilities. Temperature rate changes could not be controlled reliably, the temperature range of the Clifton instrument was limited to 4,000 mOsmol (about -7.5 °C), and temperature recordings as a function of time were not an available option for these instruments. We designed a custom-made computer-controlled nanoliter osmometer system using a LabVIEW platform (National Instruments). The cold stage, described previously(9, 10), contains a metal block through which water circulates, thereby functioning as a heat sink, see Figure 2. Attached to this block are thermoelectric coolers that may be driven using a commercial temperature controller that can be controlled via LabVIEW modules, see Figure 3. Further details are provided below. The major advantage of this system is its sensitive temperature control, see Figure 4. Automated temperature control permits the coordination of a fixed temperature ramp with a video microscopy output containing additional experimental details. To study the time dependence of the TH activity, we tested a 58 kDa hyperactive IBP from the Antarctic bacterium Marinomonas primoryensis (MpIBP)(12). This protein was tagged with enhanced green fluorescence proteins (eGFP) in a construct developed by Peter Davies' group (Queens University)(10). We showed that the temperature change profile affected the TH activity. Excellent control over the temperature profile in these experiments significantly improved the TH measurements. The nanoliter osmometer additionally allowed us to test the recrystallization inhibition of IBPs(5, 13). In general, recrystallization is a phenomenon in which large crystals grow larger at the expense of small crystals. IBPs efficiently inhibit recrystallization, even at low concentrations(14, 15). We used our LabVIEW-controlled osmometer to quantitatively follow the recrystallization of ice and to enforce a constant ice fraction using simultaneous real-time video analysis of the images and temperature feedback from the sample chamber(13). The real-time calculations offer additional control options during an experimental procedure. A stage for an inverted microscope was developed to accommodate temperature-controlled microfluidic devices, which will be described elsewhere(16). The Cold Stage System The cold stage assembly (Figure 2) consists of a set of thermoelectric coolers that cool a copper plate. Heat is removed from the stage by flowing cold water through a closed compartment under the thermoelectric coolers. A 4 mm diameter hole in the middle of the copper plate serves as a viewing window. A 1 mm diameter in-plane hole was drilled to fit the thermistor. A custom-made copper disc (7 mm in diameter) with several holes (500 μm in diameter) was placed on the copper plate and aligned with the viewing window. Air was pumped at a flow rate of 35 ml/sec and dried using Drierite (W.A. Hammond). The dry air was used to ensure a dry environment at the cooling stage. The stage was connected via a 9 pin connection outlet to a temperature controller (Model 3040 or 3150, Newport Corporation, Irvine, California, US). The temperature controller was connected via a cable to a computer GPIB-PCI card (National instruments, Austin, Texas, USA).

Concepts: Water, Ice, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Melting point, Freezing, Freezing-point depression, Antifreeze protein


Blood centers are faced with many challenges including maximizing production yield from the blood product donations they receive as well as ensuring the highest possible level of safety for transfusion patients, including protection from transfusion transmitted diseases. This must be accomplished in a fiscally responsible manner which minimizes operating expenses including consumables, equipment, waste, and personnel costs, among others. Several methods are available to produce platelet concentrates for transfusion. One of the most common is the buffy coat method in which a single therapeutic platelet unit (≥ 2.0 x10(11) platelets per unit or per local regulations) is prepared by pooling the buffy coat layer from up to six whole blood donations. A procedure for producing “double dose” whole blood derived platelets has only recently been developed. Presented here is a novel method for preparing double dose whole blood derived platelet concentrates from pools of 7 buffy coats and subsequently treating the double dose units with the INTERCEPT Blood System for pathogen inactivation. INTERCEPT was developed to inactivate viruses, bacteria, parasites, and contaminating donor white cells which may be present in donated blood. Pairing INTERCEPT with the double dose buffy coat method by utilizing the INTERCEPT Processing Set with Dual Storage Containers (the “DS set”), allows blood centers to treat each of their double dose units in a single pathogen inactivation processing set, thereby maximizing patient safety while minimizing costs. The double dose buffy coat method requires fewer buffy coats and reduces the use of consumables by up to 50% (e.g. pooling sets, filter sets, platelet additive solution, and sterile connection wafers) compared to preparation and treatment of single dose buffy coat platelet units. Other cost savings include less waste, less equipment maintenance, lower power requirements, reduced personnel time, and lower collection cost compared to the apheresis technique.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Blood, Platelet, Blood donation, Transfusion medicine, Apheresis, Buffy coat


The production of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from somatic cells provides a means to create valuable tools for basic research and may also produce a source of patient-matched cells for regenerative therapies. iPSCs may be generated using multiple protocols and derived from multiple cell sources. Once generated, iPSCs are tested using a variety of assays including immunostaining for pluripotency markers, generation of three germ layers in embryoid bodies and teratomas, comparisons of gene expression with embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and production of chimeric mice with or without germline contribution(2). Importantly, iPSC lines that pass these tests still vary in their capacity to produce different differentiated cell types(2). This has made it difficult to establish which iPSC derivation protocols, donor cell sources or selection methods are most useful for different applications. The most stringent test of whether a stem cell line has sufficient developmental potential to generate all tissues required for survival of an organism (termed full pluripotency) is tetraploid embryo complementation (TEC)(3-5). Technically, TEC involves electrofusion of two-cell embryos to generate tetraploid (4n) one-cell embryos that can be cultured in vitro to the blastocyst stage(6). Diploid (2n) pluripotent stem cells (e.g. ESCs or iPSCs) are then injected into the blastocoel cavity of the tetraploid blastocyst and transferred to a recipient female for gestation (see Figure 1). The tetraploid component of the complemented embryo contributes almost exclusively to the extraembryonic tissues (placenta, yolk sac), whereas the diploid cells constitute the embryo proper, resulting in a fetus derived entirely from the injected stem cell line. Recently, we reported the derivation of iPSC lines that reproducibly generate adult mice via TEC(1). These iPSC lines give rise to viable pups with efficiencies of 5-13%, which is comparable to ESCs(3,4,7) and higher than that reported for most other iPSC lines(8-12). These reports show that direct reprogramming can produce fully pluripotent iPSCs that match ESCs in their developmental potential and efficiency of generating pups in TEC tests. At present, it is not clear what distinguishes between fully pluripotent iPSCs and less potent lines(13-15). Nor is it clear which reprogramming methods will produce these lines with the highest efficiency. Here we describe one method that produces fully pluripotent iPSCs and “all- iPSC” mice, which may be helpful for investigators wishing to compare the pluripotency of iPSC lines or establish the equivalence of different reprogramming methods.

Concepts: Embryo, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Embryonic stem cell, Induced pluripotent stem cell


Electrochemical sensors are widely used for rapid and accurate measurement of blood glucose and can be adapted for detection of a wide variety of analytes. Electrochemical sensors operate by transducing a biological recognition event into a useful electrical signal. Signal transduction occurs by coupling the activity of a redox enzyme to an amperometric electrode. Sensor specificity is either an inherent characteristic of the enzyme, glucose oxidase in the case of a glucose sensor, or a product of linkage between the enzyme and an antibody or probe. Here, we describe an electrochemical sensor assay method to directly detect and identify bacteria. In every case, the probes described here are DNA oligonucleotides. This method is based on sandwich hybridization of capture and detector probes with target ribosomal RNA (rRNA). The capture probe is anchored to the sensor surface, while the detector probe is linked to horseradish peroxidase (HRP). When a substrate such as 3,3',5,5'-tetramethylbenzidine (TMB) is added to an electrode with capture-target-detector complexes bound to its surface, the substrate is oxidized by HRP and reduced by the working electrode. This redox cycle results in shuttling of electrons by the substrate from the electrode to HRP, producing current flow in the electrode.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Enzyme, RNA, Ribosome, Redox, Electrochemistry, Signal processing


KCNE genes encode for a small family of Kv channel ancillary subunits that form heteromeric complexes with Kv channel alpha subunits to modify their functional properties. Mutations in KCNE genes have been found in patients with cardiac arrhythmias such as the long QT syndrome and/or atrial fibrillation. However, the precise molecular pathophysiology that leads to these diseases remains elusive. In previous studies the electrophysiological properties of the disease causing mutations in these genes have mostly been studied in heterologous expression systems and we cannot be sure if the reported effects can directly be translated into native cardiomyocytes. In our laboratory we therefore use a different approach. We directly study the effects of KCNE gene deletion in isolated cardiomyocytes from knockout mice by cellular electrophysiology - a unique technique that we describe in this issue of the Journal of Visualized Experiments. The hearts from genetically engineered KCNE mice are rapidly excised and mounted onto a Langendorff apparatus by aortic cannulation. Free Ca(2+) in the myocardium is bound by EGTA, and dissociation of cardiac myocytes is then achieved by retrograde perfusion of the coronary arteries with a specialized low Ca(2+) buffer containing collagenase. Atria, free right ventricular wall and the left ventricle can then be separated by microsurgical techniques. Calcium is then slowly added back to isolated cardiomyocytes in a multiple step comprising washing procedure. Atrial and ventricular cardiomyocytes of healthy appearance with no spontaneous contractions are then immediately subjected to electrophysiological analyses by patch clamp technique or other biochemical analyses within the first 6 hours following isolation.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Blood, Heart, Cardiac muscle, Cardiac electrophysiology, Ventricle, Cardiac anatomy


In this paper, Small and Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (SWAXS) analysis of macromolecules is demonstrated through experimentation. SWAXS is a technique where X-rays are elastically scattered by an inhomogeneous sample in the nm-range at small angles (typically 0.1 - 5°) and wide angles (typically > 5°). This technique provides information about the shape, size, and distribution of macromolecules, characteristic distances of partially ordered materials, pore sizes, and surface-to-volume ratio. Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) is capable of delivering structural information of macromolecules between 1 and 200 nm, whereas Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (WAXS) can resolve even smaller Bragg spacing of samples between 0.33 nm and 0.49 nm based on the specific system setup and detector. The spacing is determined from Bragg’s law and is dependent on the wavelength and incident angle. In a SWAXS experiment, the materials can be solid or liquid and may contain solid, liquid or gaseous domains (so-called particles) of the same or another material in any combination. SWAXS applications are very broad and include colloids of all types: metals, composites, cement, oil, polymers, plastics, proteins, foods, and pharmaceuticals. For solid samples, the thickness is limited to approximately 5 mm. Usage of a lab-based SWAXS instrument is detailed in this paper. With the available software (e.g., GNOM-ATSAS 2.3 package by D. Svergun EMBL-Hamburg and EasySWAXS software) for the SWAXS system, an experiment can be conducted to determine certain parameters of interest for the given sample. One example of a biological macromolecule experiment is the analysis of 2 wt% lysozyme in a water-based aqueous buffer which can be chosen and prepared through numerous methods. The preparation of the sample follows the guidelines below in the Preparation of the Sample section. Through SWAXS experimentation, important structural parameters of lysozyme, e.g. the radius of gyration, can be analyzed.

Concepts: Diffraction, Chemistry, Polymer, X-ray crystallography, Macromolecule, William Lawrence Bragg, X-rays, Small-angle X-ray scattering


Hyperglycemia is a major health issue that leads to cardiovascular and cerebral dysfunction. For instance, it is associated with increased neurological problems after stroke and is shown to impair neurogenic processes. Interestingly, the adult zebrafish has recently emerged as a relevant and useful model to mimic hyperglycemia/diabetes and to investigate constitutive and regenerative neurogenesis. This work provides methods to develop zebrafish models of hyperglycemia to explore the impact of hyperglycemia on brain cell proliferation under homeostatic and brain repair conditions. Acute hyperglycemia is established using the intraperitoneal injection of D-glucose (2.5 g/kg bodyweight) into adult zebrafish. Chronic hyperglycemia is induced by immersing adult zebrafish in D-glucose (111 mM) containing water for 14 days. Blood-glucose-level measurements are described for these different approaches. Methods to investigate the impact of hyperglycemia on constitutive and regenerative neurogenesis, by describing the mechanical injury of the telencephalon, dissecting the brain, paraffin embedding and sectioning with a microtome, and performing immunohistochemistry procedures, are demonstrated. Finally, the method of using zebrafish as a relevant model for studying the biodistribution of radiolabeled molecules (here,[(18)F]-FDG) using PET/CT is also described.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Neurology, Retina


Perfusion techniques have been used for centuries to visualize the circulation of tissues. Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is a species of salamander that has emerged as an essential model for regeneration studies. Little is known about how revascularization occurs in the context of regeneration in these animals. Here we report a simple method for visualization of the vasculature in axolotl via perfusion of 1,1'-Dioctadecy-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate (DiI). DiI is a lipophilic carbocyanine dye that inserts into the plasma membrane of endothelial cells instantaneously. Perfusion is done using a peristaltic pump such that DiI enters the circulation through the aorta. During perfusion, dye flows through the axolotl’s blood vessels and incorporates into the lipid bilayer of vascular endothelial cells upon contact. The perfusion procedure takes approximately one hour for an eight-inch axolotl. Immediately after perfusion with DiI, the axolotl can be visualized with a confocal fluorescent microscope. The DiI emits light in the red-orange range when excited with a green fluorescent filter. This DiI perfusion procedure can be used to visualize the vascular structure of axolotls or to demonstrate patterns of revascularization in regenerating tissues.

Concepts: Blood, Heart, Blood vessel, Regeneration, Endothelium, Cardiovascular system, Axolotl, Mole salamander