Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New cell image database

The Journal of Cell Biology (JCB) recently announced the availability of a new database of cell images that you can use for FREE.

The announcement in the Journal of Cell Biology states that cell biologists can now post their images (and associated data) to the browser-based application called the JCB Viewer.

Here's an example: http://jcb-dataviewer.rupress.org/jcb/img_detail/127/134/

Click here to access the main page for the JCB Viewer.

Please note that the images are copyrighted by individual authors of journal articles in the JCB. However, because the images are available for viewing FREE to nonsubscribers a professor could link to the images to enhance teaching.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Secrets to Using this Blog

As more and more of you are "tuning in" to The A&P Professor blog, I thought I'd give you a few tips on how to use the blog more efficiently to improve your teaching.

1. Subscribe to the The A&P Professor FREE newsletter. That way, new posts will automatically go directly to your inbox and you'll know about "breaking news as it happens." Click here to subscribe to the newsletter.

2. Instead, or in addition, to a newsletter subscription you can subscribe in your favorite RSS reader. Click here to subscribe to the feed.

2.5. Want a feed that talks to you? Click here to subscribe to the PODCAST version of the feed. You can hear articles if you subscribe to the newsletter by clicking the speaker icon at the foot of each article.

3. Want to go back to an item that you read a while back? The simplest way is to enter a key term into the Search box at the very top edge of the blog screen. Another way is to go to the left column and scroll down to the Blog Archive section and find it by date and title.

3.5. Most articles have keywords listed at the end. At the blog, click on a keyword to automatically find all other posts with the same keyword.

4. Don't forget to go to the The A&P Professor website! I have a LOT more detailed and abundant information for you there! Click here to go to the website. Or click the logo in the left column of the blog screen.

4.5. At the The A&P Professor website, use the navigation buttons along the lower edge of the title to explore around . . . the buttons expand as your mouse rolls over them.

5. Email articles you like (or really hate) to your friends (or enemies). There's an email icon (envelope) at the bottom of each post at the blog.

6. If you read more easily in another language, automatically translate articles with the Google Translate widget in the left column of the blog.

7. Be sure to LEAVE a comment! That's how I learn new things . . . and you, too! And READ the comments of others. So far, many of the comments that have been left have been left by folks how matter (such as the subject of the article!). It's also a good way to let me know what you like and what you don't!

8. When you visit a journal article that I recommend, then SAVE it. You may want to look back at it again. PRINT it out and bring it to class to show your students that you are using the LATEST information (and one of them may actually be interested enough to read it, too!)

9. If you are intrigued by one of the images I use in an article, then click the image. Often, you'll go straight to the source . . . which is often a BIGGER image with some accompanying information. Many of the images I use are FREE for your reuse, but click for the source to make sure. If there is no link to the image, you probably can't use it.

10. Tell your friends and colleagues about the blog! The more folks we have in our little community, the more feedback and sharing we can generate!

And now for something completely different . . .

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]


Want an easy way to record audio files for your course website?

Audacity is a FREE software program that allows you to record anything you like in a compact, intuitive screen on your computer, then export it in any of several formats (mp3, wav, ogg, etc.).

Before exporting it, you can edit it, rearrange it, add echo or other effects, remove noise . . . and lots of other stuff, too.

I know several teachers who teach online, hybrid, or web-enhanced courses and use Audacityregularly to record podcasts (audio lectures or instructions) and easily post them online.

I used this program to create the audio pronunciation guide at my web page that explains The A&P Professor hip logo

To find out more . . . or download and try it . . . visit the Audacity site!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Blogs and wikis for A&P

I already know your favorite blog related to A&P . . . this one!

But in case you still can't get enough, I just created a new page a The A&P Professor website . . . this one listing various blogs, wikis, and online communities related to teaching and learning human anatomy and physiology.

Besides topical blogs in A&P subjects, and blogs on teaching/learning at the college level, I've also including a listing of FREE sites where you can build your own blog or wiki or related community.

Check it out at The A&P Professor's list of blogs and wikis.

This list is still in the "beta" stage . . . I need more entries. PLEASE help me by submitting your favorites! Just click the "comments" link or email me at info@theAPprofessor.org

Sad pucker

It's not alway easy for beginning students to remember which organs are peritoneal and which are retroperitoneal.

One easy way to remember which abdominopelvic organs are retroperitoneal is to use a mnemonic such as SAD PUCKER:
  • S = Suprarenal (adrenal) glands
  • A = Aorta/Inferior Vena Cava
  • D = Duodenum (second and third segments)
  • P = Pancreas
  • U = Ureters
  • C = Colon (ascending and descending only)
  • K = Kidneys
  • E = Esophagus
  • R = Rectum
Or instead, Ursula Uses Kids to Deliver All Lemon Pies except Sue’s Tasty Crust
  • Ureters
  • Urinary bladder
  • Kidneys
  • Duodenum
  • Adrenal glands
  • Large intestine
  • Pancreas
  • exept (not retroperitoneal) Sigmoid and Transverse Colon
[NOTE: these mnemonics are adapted from a Wikipedia entry]

What are we doing?

My HAPS colleague Kevin Young shared this YouTube video with us . . .

It's funny but it also really makes you think about what we're doing--or NOT doing--in education!

[The video may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to
The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Protect your tools!

Thinking of taking some homework along during holiday travel?

These days, one of the primary tools of teachers are laptops and other mobile devices. The problem is that these things are stolen faster than one per minute!

For any of us planning to take our tools along during travel over the next few weeks, here are some tips published at the PC World website:

Holiday Travel Tips: Protect Your Laptop and Privacy
Thomas Wailgum, CIO.com
Sunday, November 30, 2008

For speeding through the security line, you may want to check this out:

8 Laptop Bags That Will Help You Speed Through Airport Security
By Becky Waring
September 16, 2008 Computerworld 2008

And here's even more advice from YouTube . . .

[If you don't see the video viewer in your newsletter or feed version of this article, please go to The A&P Professor blog site to view it. Want to learn how to embed YouTube videos in your blog, website, or Powerpoint? Check it out at The A&P Professor website.]

More on 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

A few weeks ago, I alerted you to the winners of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The article 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry outlined how the discovery of and development of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) relates to human A&P.

The Nobel website has just released an interview with Martin Chalfie, one of the winners that you may want to listen to.

For the whole interview click here.

Here's just an excerpt . . .

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Drop.io (The Next Generation)

Y'all know how much I've been raving about the drop.io "instant web locker" and its potential uses for communicating with our students . . .

Well, they just keep rolling out new improvements! So a great tool just keeps getting better!

I recently heard about the rollout of the "next generation" or redesign of drop.io . . . and "dropped" you a phone message moments later at this blog's "sample drop" at
[NOTE: those of you who have already "subscribed" to or regularly visit the drop heard about this redesign yesterday . . . when I dropped a voicemail there.]

drop.io, as they say, is the simplest way to privately share any sort of media or data online, period.

In literally a matter of 2 clicks with no registration drop.io allows you to take anything ranging from photos and video to documents, voice notes, web links, email etc. add them all to a private space online, and then share them with exactly whom you want, how you want, for as long as you want.

Files you share on drop.io are not searchable, and they are not networked. In a sense, each 'drop' you make is a very simple private 'website' which you can password protect and set to expire, designed to help you take control of how you share.

This is an easy way to make a course blog!

With this release drop.io is making the interface significantly easier to interact with, and adding both customization options, and much richer collaboration options (with things like in-line commenting).

Want to check it out? There are details at http://drop.io/blog

There is a great video explanation you can spin through http://drop.io/howto

and there's a drop with some media about the redesign http://drop.io/redesign2008

Please let me know if YOU are using drop.io, and how you are using it!

{a few statements in this message were adapted from a drop.io email}


You've probably heard of brain pigments . . .

No, I don't mean "figments" . . . that's a whole other topic, eh?

I'm talking about neuromelanins, which are melanins that accumulate in brain cells as we age. These pigment molecules build up inside little organelles within neurons and seem to protect cells against natural processes of degeneration and aging.

Who knows? Maybe if we learn more about how this works, we'll be able to promote and enhance this natural protective process! Thus possibly treating neurodegenerative diseases or reducing the effects of aging.

New melanic pigments in the human brain that accumulate in aging and block environmental toxic metals
Luigi Zecca et al.
Published online before print November 6, 2008, doi:10.1073/pnas.0808768105
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)November 11,2008 vol. 105 no. 45 p.17567-17572
[This is the original article]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

At the Clicker Conference!

Remember that Clicker Conference I recommended?

I didn't see any of you there! What's with that?!

Oh well, I guess you knew that anything wonderful I learned would eventually get back to you, right? Of course . . .

I can't give it all to you in one dose, so here's the first little bit . . .

The folks at i>clicker hosted a reception the night before the conference. Kevin's Rule #1 of professional conferences is "always go to the cocktail parties." Even if you don't drink cocktails (or anything at all), there's usually some goodies to be had there. I don't mean stuff to eat. Well, OK, I do mean that. But also . . . it's a great opportunity to meet people and learn things and expand your professional network.

Of course, Kevin's Rule #1 worked like a charm this time, too.

One of the many wonderful folks I met was Derek Bruff, who has written a book about the best practices in using clickers in your classroom. The book is about to come out and, after hearing Derrek's stories about all he learned when interviewing all kinds of master teachers who use clickers, I can't wait to read it!

You can learn more about Derrek and his book at his blog Teaching with Classroom Response Systems. While you're there you can learn some things about the conference and about teaching with clickers.

Coming soon . . . specific lessons I learned at the conference . . . and why you really should consider using clickers in your classroom!

Don't forget about my online clicker seminar!

Skin ecology

You'll likely be wanting to wash your hands after reading this.

I continue to be fascinated with the fact that we do not walk through this world alone . . . we have a host of bacteria and other tiny organisms living in us and on us. The ecological balance of these diminutive communities is crucial to our good health. In my opinion, the body's management of microbial flora is an important part of our defensive strategy against infection.

The general public is slowly becoming aware of the importance of an ecologically balanced flora in and on the body. Witness the ongoing campaigns marketing the various health benefits of the bacterial colonies in yogurt.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences focuses on the ecology of human skin. Researchers surveyed the DNA of bacteria present on the hands of 51 male and female subjects and come up with some interesting results . . .

Here are a few interesting data discovered by the researchers:
  • Females have a higher diversity of bacteria on their hands than males . . . perhaps due to a slightly higher skin pH in women, or perhaps the mix of sebum, sweat, and lotions, or maybe even hormonal differences . . . they couldn't really say for sure at this point
  • Females have more bacteria living under the surface film of skin than males
  • 4, 742 different species of bacteria were found in the whole group of subjects
  • The species each of has on our hands is a rather unique mix--only 5 (out of 4,742) species were found on every hand in the group
  • Most of the 150 or so different species of bacteria found on skin of an individual hand are beneficial or harmless . . . only a small minority are pathogenic
  • The diversity of bacteria differs between a person's right hand and left hand
  • Hand washing (as practiced in this group) did not remove many of the bacteria (or the populations recovered rapidly after washing)
Want to know more?

The influence of sex, handedness, and washing on the diversity of hand surface bacteria
Noah Fierer, Micah Hamady, Christian L. Lauber, and Rob Knight
published 12 November 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0807920105

[This is the original article]

Hands down, women lead in diversity of bacteria
Randolph E. Schmid
The Seattle Times (online). November 4, 2008.
[Summarizes some of the results of the study.]

The Bacterial Flora of Humans
Kenneth Todar
Todar's Online Textbook of Bacteriology. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Accesseed 5 November 2008.

Scientists work at recruiting "good bugs"

Robert S. Boyd
The Seattle Times (online). November 5, 2008.
[Summarizes current research with engineered "probiotic" beneficial bacteria to treat or prevent disease; cool image of MRSA bacteria]

Click this thumbnail for a FREE image of the skin structure that you can use in your course!

More than one type of itch

I've been itching to tell you about this . . .

Science News has a great feature article (with a nice diagram) on the different senses of itch, a rapidly expanding area of physiology these days.

An added bonus is a set of links to relevant journal and magazine articles.

By Laura Sanders
Science News November 22nd, 2008; Vol.174 #11(p. 16)
[Feature article available online]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Is the scientific method working?

Many of you know that the big push in K-12 science education for a long time has been to stress "the scientific method" at the expense of the actual discoveries that have been made and that inform the development of new hypotheses. And of course we know that a lot of these ideas "trickle up" to college-level education as well.

OK, I guess my bias is showing here. I think this movement is a natural outgrowth of the reaction to earlier practices of focusing on content only at the expense of a good understanding of how science works. In addressing that earlier problem, I think we've gone a little overboard in at least two ways:

1. I think we have swung the pendulum to the opposite imbalance between "how science is done" and "what science has discovered." I think we are now seeing some movement back to the center (hopefully for a more stable balance).

2. In trying to find a way to teach "how science is done" we've distilled it to a rigid formulaic summary that does not reflect the reality of "how science is really done." Again, I think we are seeing some movement to expand beyond a simple definition of "the scientific method" toward more discussion of the variety of methods, some of them sloppy yet productive, used in modern science.

In the first chapter of our textbook Anatomy and Physiology we've addressed "the scientific method" in a way that provides the standard formula for how science is done while also sufficiently explaining that it's flexible and dynamic . . . and that methods and approaches evolve. Then throughout the book, we often bring up examples of how scientists, using the process of science, have made some core discoveries.

[NOTE: See my previous article on Nobel Prize winners to see how I use this award to illustrate the process of science.]

Occasionally, reviewers chide us for including this "unnecessary" information. I guess they are looking for a "just the answers, ma'am" when we are more interested in telling a story. Often, the story includes how we know what we know. And why what we know now is different from what we thought we knew a few years ago. It's our attempt to achieve a balance between "what we know" and "how we know it."

We also sometimes get a note from a reviewer or copyeditor who wants to "tighten up" the language in our text by changing vague statements like "some scientists believe that . . . " to "scientists believe that . . . " --or simply dropping the reference to scientists and stating something as a simple fact. But usually those passages are intentionally vague, to imply a significant level of uncertainty or disagreement about the fact that is stated. We believe that this helps inform students regarding how science really works. This approach would not work for every concept . . . it would muddy up the clarity of the narrative . . . but a few indications here and there of the dynamic, slippery nature of human science is useful.

Then throughout my course, I bring in more recent stories of discoveries . . . or even failures . . . in science so that students deepen their understanding of where all the concepts crammed into their A&P course comes from. And by doing so, I hope they won't be too surprised when breakthroughs are "taken back" or a new muscle is discovered (or maybe not) after all these years of human dissections.

[NOTE: One of the main reasons I produce The A&P Professor blog, newsletter, and website is to share what I'm learning as I scan the recent literature for these stories.]

One of the issues that really dogs scientists . . . and by extension students of science, too . . . is how scientific information is disseminated. In journals, of course. But there are SO MANY stories of good science that could really spark a new line of discoveries being blocked from publication by factors (power struggles, politics, etc.) that have nothing to do with the quality of the research.

A new essay in the online journal PLoS Medicine talks about a disturbing pattern in scientific publication that may adversely affect what we can learn from science . . . and how the scientific story will continue to unfold . . . .

Why Current Publication Practices May Distort Science.
Young NS, Ioannidis JPA, Al-Ubaydli O
(2008) PLoS Med 5(10): e201 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050201

This article explains in a straitforward way how "the current system of publication
in biomedical research provides a distorted view of the reality of scientific data that are generated in the laboratory and clinic."

If you want to deepen your own understanding of the modern process of science . . . so that you can pass it along to your students . . . I highly recommend this article.

Where does fat come from?

The short answer to the question is . . . .

French fries!

But the more technical answer regarding the developmental origin of adipose tissue is one that has eluded scientists for some time now. Exactly where and how adipocytes arise is the subject of a recent article in the journal Science.

Researchers looking at mice found that adipocytes in white adipose tissue (WAT or white fat) arise from progenitor cells located within the walls of blood vessels. Apparently, these progenitor cells commit to producing fat cells just before and/or just after birth. However, this happens only in vessels of tissues that will become fatty--not in the vessels of other tissues.

Exactly how this all plays out is yet to be worked out--but now we have something to work out!

Check out these resources:

White Fat Progenitor Cells Reside in the Adipose Vasculature
Wei Tang, et al. Science 322 (5901), 583. (24 October 2008) [DOI: 10.1126/science.1156232]
[Original article explaining that dipocytes (fat cells) originate from precursor cells that reside within the walls of the blood vessels that feed fat tissue.]

Can We Nip Obesity in Its Vascular Bud?
C. Ronald Kahn
Science 322 (5901), 542. (24 October 2008)[DOI: 10.1126/science.1165667]
[Journal editor's summary and perspective on the original article. The full summary has a great image showing the concept.]

Can we extend our lifespan?

One of the things that students often hope to get from A&P class is some information on how they can live healthier and live longer.

Well . . . except that smokers and heavy drinkers often do not want to hear about the hazards of their addictions and most of us don't want to hear about how our favorite food could be bad for us if not consumed in moderation.

A brief article in the journal PLoS Medicine showed that four pretty easy lifestyle choices combine to extend a person by about 14 years!

And find out (one) answer to the question "does vitamin C really help?"

Check out this brief article for a bit of info that could spark a great classroom discussion!

Combined Impact of Health Behaviours and Mortality in Men and Women: The EPIC-Norfolk Prospective Population Study
Khaw KT, Wareham N, Bingham S, Welch A, Luben R, et al.
PLoS Medicine Vol. 5, No. 1, e12 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050012

And now for something completely different . . . look what vitamin C did to animate this orange!

[The video may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Salt of the earth

If you're worth your salt as a teacher, you're often struggling to come up with informed answers to students questions.

In the typical A&P course, students get the message that sodium and chloride are essential to life. In fact, throughout the course they learn about many of the central roles these ions play in the function of the human body.

It's no wonder that salt has played such a central role in human history. Which reminds me of a great book I listened to (it was the audio version) a couple of years ago. Salt: A World History (by Mark Kurlansky) ought to be on your list of "must read books for A&P professors."

Besides learning about salt, you'll also come away with an appreciation of the interconnectedness of things.

If nothing else, it will give you a lot of anecdotes and factoids that you can use in your A&P class.

One of the questions that I often get in class is, "if salt [or sodium] is so essential to life, why is it bad for you?" Wow, what a great teaching moment! I can help bring the student to a higher level of thinking by dissecting the false choice of "good" and "bad" in this case and revealing the "gray."

But of course, what is the latest story on the role of salt in creating hypertension (HTN) or other problems? Check out this recent article from the LA Times to help sort out the latest thinking on this one:

Salt and high blood pressure: New concerns raised
by Emily Sohn
Los Angeles Times online, 27 October 2008
[Article summarizing the link between HTN and salt]

Here's a FREE video that does a good job of outlining some central ideas about salt's health connections:

[The video may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

For additional FREE resources, visit the expanded version of this article at The A&P Professor website.

Want to check out that Salt book I recommended? Click the Amazon link below to see reviews or to download the audio version.

Free genetics - genomics resources

At the NABT (National Association of Biology) professional development conference in Memphis TN a couple of weeks ago, I ran into the folks from the Community of Genetics Educators (CoGE).

At first glance, I thought this was strictly for folks teaching a course in genetics. Wrong! It's for biology educators in general who have some level of genetics content in their courses. Well, that's us!

Although our textbook Anatomy & Physiology has a chapter on genetics, I do not teach this as a separate unit in my course. However, I do weave the concepts of genetics and genomics throughout my course . . . as I suspect you do.

Wow, does CoGE (an effort of the National Institutes of Medicine [NIH]) have a lot of FREE resources to help me understand current genetics better . . . and use in my course materials!

Here's part of an email I recently received from CoGE telling you all about it. They told me to share it . . . so here it is:

"Here it is:


It will take you about three minutes to register in.

Please do me a favor and leave a short bio. It helps people know who you are.

And leaving a photo is even better. Leave a photo when you register in between now and

the end of November and you quality for a special CoGE door prize (worth owning).

A few things you might want to know:

Everything is free and the site is part of educational programming at the National Institutes of Health. We will not share your email address, or ever try to sell you anything.

What is there?

(1) This coming Wednesday evening there is a live lecture on “The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008 (GINA).” Starts at 7pm and you can call in free from home and see the slides on any computer. There is an hour of Q&A from teachers attending with the speaker after a short talk

(2) Over 100 excellent copyright-free genetic illustrations by NIH illustrator Darryl Leja. Darryl pretty much defined how we draw the double helix with his excellent work during the mapping of the human genome.

(3) Resources submitted by other teachers and searchable. Lesson plans, valuable internet sites, and tips on everything from DNA and Darwin Day to extracting DNA from just about anything.

And a lot more.

Here’s what we know. If you do not take time to register now, you probably never will.

So please… pause, link in, and join the more than 500 other biology teachers already using CoGE.

In return you can find them, they can find you, and we all can share resources that work to

make bio teaching that much more effective and enjoyable.


Jeff Witherly
CoGE, Mayor

(don’t you love that title?)


And now for something completely different . . . a cute music video regarding Mendelian genetics (from YouTube, not from CoGE!)

[The video may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

New information about glia

The old ideas of neurons be "it" and the glia (or neuroglia) being merely "glue" are just getting shot all to pieces these days, eh?

The latest volley of shot comes from a recent article in the journal Science. Researchers at The Rockefeller University in New York found that in worms, "glial cells assist sensory neurons to perceive and respond to stimuli by improving signal-to-noise ratio." In fact, they found more than that . . . removal of the glia just totally messed up the neurons and made them nonfunctional.

So which are the cells vital to nervous function now, eh?

Check out the new findings . . .

Glia are Essential for Sensory Organ Function in C. elegans
T. Bacaj et al.
Science 31 October 2008:
Vol. 322. no. 5902, pp. 744 - 747 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1163074]
[The original article]

A New Glance at Glia
A. Reichenbach, T. Pannicke
Science 31 October 2008:
Vol. 322. no. 5902, pp. 693 - 694 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1166197]
[Editor's perspective includes a great image explaining the discovery.]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Selective memory

I can't remember if I've already mention this to you yet . . .

Researchers recently found that they were able to erase specific memories in rats. Really. They tell all about it in the current issue of the journal Neuron.

By blocking the enzyme alpha-CaMKII (which is a kinase) in neurons of the brain, the researchers were able to completely block recall of mild electric shocks given when a certain piece of music was played. Apparently, this specific kinase performs a critical step in recalling memory.

It's just the beginning of a road that may lead to the ability to therapeutically erase traumatic memories in individuals who suffer post-traumatic pathologies. Or it might not. But it's an interesting development, nonetheless.

Even more likely, however, is the possibility that this research pathway will lead us to a clearer understanding of how memories are formed and recalled.

Want to know more? Check out these resources:

Science News Web edition : Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008
[Brief article that summarizes the research and its implications]

Inducible and Selective Erasure of Memories in the Mouse Brain via Chemical-Genetic Manipulation
Neuron, Volume 60, Issue 2, 353-366, 23 October 2008
Xiaohua Cao, et al.
[The original research article in the journal Neuron; free brief summary]

Requirement for alpha -CaMKII in Experience-Dependent Plasticity of the Barrel Cortex.
S. Glazewski et al.
Science 19 April 1996: Vol. 272. no. 5260, pp. 421 - 423
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5260.421
[Journal article showing related functions for this enzyme]

You may want to go back and look at my recent article on memory at The A&P Professor blog.

Growing a new prostate

This letter in the 22 October 2008 advanced online issue of of Nature caught my eye . . .

Scientists at Genentech, Inc. have identified an adult stem cell type in the male prostate that can can be transplanted and generate a new prostate in the donor!

Generation of a prostate from a single adult stem cell
Kevin G. Leong, et al.
Nature advance online publication 22 October 2008 | doi:10.1038/nature07427
[Original article; summary is free]

'New prostate' grown inside mouse
BBC News online, accessed 24 October 2008
[Summary of research and its context; cool image of a prostate cancer cell]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Changes in sensory mapping of the brain

We all know about sensory mapping of the brain, right. Somatic senses detected on the right side of the body are processed in the somatic sensory area of the cortex in the left hemisphere . . . all mapped out in a way that can be represented in a homunculus or little map of the body transposed on the cortex. The image shown here is a snapshot of a three-dimensional homunculus on exhibit at the London Natural History Museum. Or the 2-D homunculus shown in Chapter 14 of my textbook Anatomy & Physiology.

And we all know that plasticity of brain function allows us to reorganize the sensory map of the brain when we lose a body part . . . as in an accidental amputation. (Yet another reason to be careful when dissecting specimens, eh?)

A recent article in the journal Current Biology tells us that a man who received a hand transplant several decades after an accidental amputation experienced a reactivation of the old "hand map" within his sensory cortex. In other words, his brain went back to the original pre-amputation configuration.

. . . a nice little bit of current research to throw into your next discussion of the concepts of sensory mapping and plasticity.

Check out these resources:

Chronically deafferented sensory cortex recovers a grossly typical organization following allogenic hand transplantation
By Frey, S., et al.
October 14, 2008, Current Biology, vol. 18, no. 19, p. 1530-1534, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.08.051
(original article; summary is FREE; article contains interesting images)

Science News Web edition : Thursday, October 9th, 2008
(great FREE summary and interpretation of the findings; has photos of the subject)

handtransplant.com com
(site about hand transplants)

Hand transplant video
(YouTube video with the story of a hand transplant . . . can't be embedded)

For "something completely different," there's this odd video that parodies the fringe hypothesis that a transplanted organ may carry with it memories of the donor . . .

[If you don't see the video viewer in your newsletter or feed version of this article, please go to The A&P Professor blog site to view it.]

drop.io Firefox Extension

Wow this drop.io thing is fun!

What, you ask, is drop.io? Just go back to my original article on drop.io to find out that it's a nifty FREE web tool to communicate and share with students, colleagues, or total strangers.

I just found out that they have a Firefox plugin that adds just one more set of magical features to an already crazy magical tool.

First, if you haven't been using Firefox browser, which is a FREE download from Mozilla, then why not?!

It's a great browswer and has a bazillion (or so) plugins and ways to customize it.

Firefox 3

One of the plugins is the one from drop.io, which adds "drag 'n drop.io" features to Firefox.

After downloading and installing the plugin (just a few keystrokes as you regular Firefox users know), a small red drop.io dot (see the logo pictured here) will appear in the lower toolbar of the browser frame. You can drag files or web items to the red dot and a drop.io drop is created automatically with your item(s) right there already in it! Wow.

Or if you have a particular drop open, you can just drag things into the screen where the drop appears and they'll now be part of the drop.

Click here for the link to the drop.io demo on this plugin. It does even more that I'm saying, but they say it better than I do! I'll also drag it into the A&P Professor sample drop using the plugin itself (hey, I want to play with it, OK?).

Go ahead into the drop (especially if you have yet done so), and be sure to sign up for notifications of new drops (by email, text messages, or whatever). That's because I continue to drop things there and you'll want to see/hear/watch them.

AND you'll want to gain some experience with drop.io so you'll be comfortable using it for your own courses/committees/poker clubs.

[Remember the drop password? APROCKS]

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Just as I predicted . . . this year' Nobel Prize for chemistry has an A&P connection!

The announcement came as scheduled on October 8 . . . and the same day I notified you via a voice message at our drop.io drop . . . .

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the
Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2008 jointly to

Osamu Shimomura,
Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole, MA, USA
and Boston University Medical School, MA, USA,

Martin Chalfie,
Columbia University, New York, NY, USA


Roger Y. Tsien,
University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

"for the discovery and development of the
green fluorescent protein, GFP

So how does this discovery relate to human anatomy & physiology? GFP (shown in the ribbon model) is that bright green stain used in all those micrographs of important structures and processes in the cell!

As the Nobel Committee states, "With the aid of GFP, researchers have developed ways to watch processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread."

For an example of how this protein can be used, look at Figure 16-36 in our textbook Anatomy & Physiology 6th edition. The image in part A shows GFP used to identify the location of insulin in pancreatic tissue--thus outlining the beta cells and establishing the overall structure of a pancreatic islet. Just one of many examples, of course.

And it's not just green that can be used . . . Tsien is the laureate (sharing this prize) who built on the original discovery to develop a whole palette of colors that can be used to study the human body (and other organisms).

For a nice summary, check out these FREE publications (PDF format) from nobelprize.org

Information for the public
(basic summary and significance of the discovery; has COOL multicolor photos of brain tissue)

Scientific background
(More in-depth information)

Also visit the links at the main page for this prize at http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2008/index.html

Here's a great article from Science News (with links to previous articles related to this discovery):

Nobel Prize in chemistry commends finding and use of green fluorescent protein

Here's a video explaining the reasons for awarding the prize . . .

(go directly to the blog if the video viewer does not appear in your email or news feed)

Here's a video clip explaining the concepts involved . . .

(go directly to the blog if the video viewer does not appear in your email or news feed)

For the "how-to" on how to embed these clips in your webpage, email, or PowerPoint slide, please go to the YouTube page at The A&P Professor website

Also read my article from last week regarding how I use Nobel Prize winners and their discoveries in my course . . . and how they are linked to my textbook Anatomy & Physiology.

Near death?

No--I'm not asking about how your semester is going . . .

I suspect that I'm not the only one who gets questions from my students related to things that have been seldom if ever studied by reliable scientists . . . but are accepted (or rejected) as "facts" nonetheless.

Take the "near death experience" frequently reported by individuals and often relayed by the popular press . . . as well as portrayed in popular fiction.

Physiologically speaking, what may be behind this phenomenon?

Last month researchers University of Southampton in the UK announced that they are going to launch the biggest investigation into the "near-death" phenomenon so far. The university's Hu­man Con­scious­ness Proj­ect is calling their new initiative AWARE (A­WAre­ness dur­ing RE­sus­cita­t­ion. It is to involve a large team of researchers from all over the world.

Dr. Sam Parnia, leader of this effort, states, "Contrary to popular perception, death is not a specific moment. It is a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working and the brain ceases functioning – a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death."

Dr. Parnia wants to explore what brain processes may still be intact during those moments after the heart stops beating. Wow, what an intriguing question.

I don't think I'll be volunteering as a subject for this one, however!

Want to know more?

World's Largest Study of Near-Death Experiences to Start
World Science published online September 11, 2008
Summary article

Press Release
University of Southampton published online September 10, 2008

Problems with images and videos in Outlook & other email

I recently found out that images that I've been using in my blog articles are working fine in browsers and browser-based email programs. But if you are getting the Newsletter versions of my blog entries, then you are often getting huge or distorted images imbedded in the articles.

Oh my gosh, sometimes they're humungous!

Anyway, I've tracked down the source of the problem and from now on this should not happen again!

Also, it turns out that YouTube videos that are embedded in the blog articles will not always show up in the feed or newsletter. That's not something I can fix . . . it's the nature of the technology. But there is an easy work-around . . . just click the link of the title of the article to go to the blog entry directly to see the article WITH all embedded videos.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Yesterday, the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three people, with half the prize split in half for each notable discovery:

Harald zur Hausen

for his discovery of

"human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer"

and the other half jointly to

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier

for their discovery of

"human immunodeficiency virus"

Although these discoveries are "common knowledge" now, they represent critical shifts in our understanding of immunity and disease processes in the body.

For a detailed outline of these contributions visit http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2008/press.html At this site, you will also find a great FREE diagram you could use in a PowerPoint slide, with a link to a high-resolution version. (Please observe relevant copyright laws.) Click here for the PDF version of the press release announcing the prize.

A full complement of photos, summaries, videos, etc, is (or will be shortly) available at the regular entry page for this year's prize at http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2008/index.html

I like to use the Nobel Prizes in my course to spark interest in the topics that we cover in A&P and to engage students in the current world of science. Nearly always, the prize in the category of "physiology or medicine" relates to a principle explored in our course. In our textbook, Anatomy & Physiology, we provide a list summarizing some of the key awards in this category for the previous hundred years or so. The list identifies the chapter(s) in which the discoveries appear as part of the story of human anatomy and physiology.

[In the 6th edition of Anatomy & Physiology, the list appears as an appendix in the book; in the upcoming 7th edition, the list is called out in the first chapter and appears in the online A&P Connect feature new to this edition. In A&P Connect, students can link directly to the Nobel website for more information . . . and the list can be updated as soon as new awards are announced.]

This year's prize include an extra bonus in terms of observing how the scientific community operates . . . a prominent American researcher, Robert Gallo, is also often recognized as independently identifying HIV as the agent of AIDS. So this prize is not without some juicy controversy, eh? For a discussion of this issue, check out this article:

Nobel Medicine Prize Row as Scientist is Excluded
Mark Henderson
Times Online October 6, 2008

FYI, the website for the Nobel Prizes at nobelprize.org is rich with other resources for your teaching. For example there are free diagrams and animations related to the Nobel-recognized discoveries. There is a link to the Nobel Museum and even educational games!

And stay tuned to our sample drop.io drop . . . if the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry relates to A&P (and it often does), then I'll be posting a voicemail or text message there to alert you.

Here's a FREE video of the announcement:

Here's a video clip that explains the reasons for the award more fully:

For the "how-to" on how to embed these clips in your webpage, email, or PowerPoint slide, please go to the YouTube page at The A&P Professor website.

Urine luck!

If you discuss urine sediment in your course, you might find the urine sediment images at Cornell's Urine Sediment Atlas interesting and useful.

It's set up for veterinary students primarily, but is very useful for human biology as well.

These might be good for linking to your lectures, labs, case studies, test/quiz items, wallpapering your desktop, whatever.

Check out more image sources at The A&P Professor website!

Science Debate 2008

Where do the presidential candidates stand on issues relating to science and science education?

Find out at Science Debate 2008, a project that presents the views of two major candidates* Obama and McCain on some of the major issues and concerns related to science and and science education. I like the fact that the candidates are laid out side by side for easy comparison.

[* FYI, I have withdrawn my request to be considered as write-in candidate this time around. I'm just too busy with other projects!]