Trams, Police, the Equestrian Center and the Opera… (Day 51)

UVM Kosice Equestrian Center Jumping Practice Arena

Today has been very long however I am now relaxed and ready for the next 4 days full of studying and revising.

This morning started by applying for my Residency permit which is required if you are staying in Slovakia for more than 90 days. You have to apply at the police station in person and they take your photo and fingerprints to go on file. The pleasure of this started last night when we were trying to get the required 4 Euro duty stamp from the post office (posta) as we had no clue what we were buying and they look pretty similar to normal stamps.

The next excitement came when we tried to find the Police station, we got the tram ok and got to the right place. Then I had a little accident which involved me getting hit by a tram, I was very lucky as it missed me head by only about 2 inches which would suck… Basically the tram body extends outwards wider than the actual rails, and then when there is a bend the corner of the tram extends outwards from the rails even more considerably. Now this was what got me, I’d stood back from the rails on the markings for the crossing across the road (which are the same as a English Zebra Crossing) without realising there was a bend. Now I was holding a book at my side in my hand, and the tram hit my arm and shoulder (yes it hurt!!!) and made my hand bleed. One of the first lessons we learn here is that trams do not stop for anyone or anything they hit so yeah, definately a practical lesson I won’t forget in a hurry.

Anyways back to the police station, we had a staff member from the foreign office meeting us at the police station to translate as they did not speak English well. It went ok, with them letting us all leave again afterwards, we do have to pick up our Citizen ID Cards when the call us though. Whilst being a citizen does not give us state benefits (unlike the UK) it does mean that bank accounts and renting privately is easier, and also gives a reduced cost for medicines.

UVM Kosice Equestrian Center Jumping Practice Arena
The training arena with jumps

After this a couple of us went with the staff member to visit the university equestrian center which is located on the edge of town. Now there are about 60 horses here, 12 of which belong to the university, the rest are owned privately and include the Police Equine Team as well which is pretty  cool. The center has an indoor arean, a large covered outdoor arena, a eventing arena and a practice jumping arena as well which is pretty cool. In addition there are also trails from the center out to different areas which is pretty cool as there are some mountain trails too!

UVM Kosice Equestrian Center Main Arena
The main eventing arena

Now I’ve got riding lessons as part of my curriculum next semester which will be held here, to be honest I think every vet should understand at least the basics of riding to understand the movement of the horse.

I have always liked theatre and live music, and here it really is cheap, I got a ticket to see Nabucco for just 3 euros, it was the cheapest ticket yet the seats were on the top balcony right in the center with an awesome view. The actual opera was in Italian, with Slovak subtitles, however the music and atmosphere was what I went for and did not disappoint! With a little help from wikipedia I even managed to follow the story as well! The opera house looked absolutely beautiful as well!

The Opera House in Kosice Slovakia with Orchestra
The Opera House in Kosice, Slovakia

Anyways, time to grab some sleep before our 4 day revision marathon!

The last of General Microbiology, looking at PCR… (Day 50)

Microbiology zones of inhibition antimicrobial resistance

Today was my day of Microbiology, one of my favourite days of the week as the practicals are always interesting. And as the rest of the week is bank holiday and rector days the last day of school this week. Last week we looked at testing for antimicrobial resistance and efficiency and I promised that I would so you the results so here they are…

Microbiology zones of inhibition antimicrobial resistanceThe bacteria I cultured on this plate was Staphylococcus aureus, which is more commonly known as MRSA. The effectiveness of the antimicrobial is determined by the size of the circle around it, you can see that pennicillin (PEN) and Erythromycin (ERY) have very little effect. Kanamycin (KAN) has limited effect, and Streptomycin (STR) has the biggest effeciency. The resistance of bacteria to antibiotics is something I will write a bit more on another day as its a large topic area to cover and PCR has already taken me over my word limit.

Today was kind of sad as this was our last practical session in the Microbiology lab as next week we start working in the Immunology lab downstairs. The topic today was the use of PCR and wasn’t as practical as usual, instead it was the theory and use of PCR, then a walk through the PCR laboratories (which actually had work in progress which kinda explains why we didn’t anything ourselves). PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction which is a technique developed in 1983 allowing the rapid multiplication of a single (or few) pieces of DNA into millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence.

This is based both on the chemical and physical properties of DNA. Now without getting to complicated DNA is in a double helix shape with the structure given by a backbone composed of alternating sugar (2-deoxyribose) and phosphate molecules to which the molecules coding the gene are attached. Now there are just four different molecules that are used for coding in DNA; Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, and Guanine. Now these are then broken down into two groups; the purines (Adenine and Guanine) and the pyrimidines (Cytosine and Thymine). Now at each position on the DNA backbone a purine will bind with a pyrimidine to form a base pair. It gets even simplier here as Adenine will only bind to Thymine and Guanine will only bind to Cytosine. Basically this means that if you know what one strand of the DNA backbone is you can simply work out what the second strand should be just by looking at the bindings.

Now the molecules forming the base pairs are joined by hydrogen bonds (which are noncovalent) so DNA can be unzipped and the two strands seperated which is pretty essential in living organisms. In the PCR process this is done by raising the temperature to between 94 – 98 degrees celcius which breaks these bonds and seperates the two strands of DNA. This process is called thermocycling as it is done repeatedly to multiply the strands of DNA.

Now you understand how DNA is split its important to look at how the copy is made. First of all once the DNA splits we need to know which part of the DNA we want to copy, this is done using using a forward and reverse primer which are specifically manufactured to attach to the molecule pattern at each end of the region we want to copy. We then use something called a DNA Polymerase which is a enzyme that can add molecules to the end of a newly forming strand of DNA (this new strand starts at the primer position). Finally we cook this all together in a soup containing a mix of unbound molecules (Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, and Guanine) to be used to create the new strands. This heating and splitting cycle is repeated 20 – 30 times each time splitting and replicating every DNA chain within the solution (aka doubling the amount of DNA each time).

Just repeating this for 30 cycles will produce over 1,073,741,824 identical DNA strands which can then be used for further analysis whether that is looking at identifying DNA in forensics or looking for a disease causing gene. One of the most exciting applications is the identification of viral infections before the onset of clinical disease allowing the treatment to start earlier and potentially have a better success rate.

Muscles, the pressures of blood, and the wonder of breathing… (Day 49)

Histological Smooth Muscle

Wow its start of week 7, I am already halfway through my first semester and whats worse is this is only a 2 day week as Thursday is a bank holiday here in Slovakia and Wednesday and Friday are Rectors Days which means no classes.

Today it snowed, so I decided to do a video diary to show you instead of tell you here (todays topics continue below the video!):

[youtube_sc url=”UEc3arT7xhQ”]

This morning was Histology, still one of my favourite classes and was on muscles which was pretty interesting. To be fair I wish I understood how a single initial stem cell can be programmed to take on so many different shapes, forms and functions… Hopefully one day ay? 🙂 Now there are three different types of muscle which are formed from cells called myocytes which are; smooth muscle, skeletal muscle, and cardian muscle. Each of these muscle types has a different cellular structure and arrangment.

Smooth muscle has spindle shaped fibres with a oval shaped central nucleus with no banding. The nucleus is the dark oval shape on the pink colour strands.

Histological Smooth MuscleSkeletal muscle looks similar, however the muscle fibres have banding (lighter and darker lines) in addition to the nucleus being located to the side of the cell. The section  below has the longitudinal fibres (on the left) in addition to a cross sectional view on the right showing the bundles of the fibres.

Histological Skeletal Muscle SectionThe final section is cardiac muscle which are under involuntary control, these look different as they have long branching fibres forming a mesh like structure. with the nucleus centrally located.

Histological Cardiac MuscleThen it was time for physiology, today’s lecture was on blood pressures and the science of respiration (aka how to breathe). Obviously blood would be pretty useless to the cells that make up the body if it stayed in the tubes of the body so there are different mechanisms for it to leave the capillaries. There are two different circulation systems within mammals, the pulmonary circulation and the systemic circulation. The pulmonary circulation forms a loop from the right side of the heart to the lungs where blood is oxygenated before then returning to the heart to be pumped back out via the left ventricle to the rest of the body. Anyways back to blood pressure, obviously the pressure is highest at the time of ventricular contraction when the heart pushes the blood out of the left ventricle into the aorta. Its then logical for the pressure in the aorta to be highest followed by arteries, then arterioles, and finally capillaries. This is repeated in reverse on the veinous side with the vena cava having a low pressure as the blood reenters the heart.

So anyways onto respiration, common knowledge is that air contains Oxygen that we breathe in which then gets into our blood which goes around our body and gives cells energy to move (massive oversimplification but meh!)…The respiratory system is also responsible for the regulation of blood pH (or acidity), Olfaction (the sense of smell), and for the protection of the lungs via coughing and sneezing.

So the essential thing with oxygen getting from the lungs into the blood is Dalton’s Law of pressures in addition to the Young-Laplace equation which deals with surface or wall tension. Back to the beginning though; there are 4 different volumes which are considered when looking at respiration:

  • Tidal Volume (TV) is the air that moves in and out of the lungs with each breathe ~500ml
  • Inspiratory Reserve Volume (IRV) is the air that can be forcefully inhaled after the Tidal Volume ~2100 – 3200ml
  • Expiratory Reserve Volume (ERV) is the air that can be forcefully exhaled after the Tidal Volume ~1000 – 1200ml
  • Residual Volume (RV) is air left in the lung after strenous expiration ~1200ml

Now in addition to this there is also dead space which contains air that is not used composed of the respiratory passage (trachea) between the mouth and lungs. The respiratory system is then devided into two parts, the Upper Respiratory Tract (URT) with the mouth, nose, nasal cavity, pharynx (and associated structures), and the larynx. The Lower Respiratory Tract (LRT) comprises of the trachea, lungs and alveoli. The surface area of the LRT is somewhere around 100000 square meters (now thats a staggering number!). Now most of this comprises of tissue just 1 cell think to allow easy transport of oxygen between the lungs and the blood in the capilaries.

Now Oxygen within the blood is carried by haemoglobin molecules which have the ability to each bind 4 oxygen molecules (I hate chemistry!) which is know as oxyhemoglobin. When all four hemes are bound it is refered to as Saturated Haemoglobin, and when just 1-3 of the hemes are bound it is known as Unsaturated Haemoglobin. The rate of binding is affected by the pressure of the air in lungs, the temperature, age and health of the animal.

I’m way over todays word count so I am going to leave it here! Hope you enjoyed todays diary and the video!

Matriculation Ceremony… (Day 46)

Certificate of matriculation

Today was a really big day, my first ever Matriculation Ceremony, where I would officially join the register of students here at the University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Kosice Slovakia. This is something I have been looking forward to since I arrived here, as its a completely formal occasion and I have to admit to loving having a reason to dress up. I don’t know if any of us realised just how formal the ceremony would actually be until it had started with trumpets for the Rectors and Rectors entry into the hall.

Once the ceremony was declared open we had the matriculation oath read by a member of our year before then promising to the oath individually and recieving a certificate from the vice-rector.

Certificate of matriculationThe rector of the university then gave a speech which I did really enjoy, a big part of the university ethos is social interaction. They make it compulsory for every student to do some kind of sport, whether it is basketball, football or horse riding. I’ve personally signed up for horseriding next semester, however I’ve also been going along to play basketball Monday evenings. It was definately very motivational.

The matriculation ceremony is basically the addition of a name to a register, and today each new student signed the register of students at the university. In addition to this we also recieved our official student contracts required by Slovak law and our Study Index’s which are our student records for the next 4 years.

Vet Student Study Index Matriculation

Reading ECG’s and the great skull failure… (Day 45)

Heart physiology dog ecg vet school diary

Today is the last day of lessons this week as tommorow is a Rectors day (a day off agreed by the Rector of the university) for the Matriculation Ceremony. Being Thursday I have Anatomy and Physiology today with an exam on the skull, in addition I spent last night revising so have not had the chance to sleep. Pretty bouncy from so much caffiene as well so all in all going be pretty interesting today.

Today started with the anatomy lecture which went over the structures of the skull again, for something that I’ve just thought of as the container for the brain its pretty amazing how many different parts it has. The skull is not actually a single bone but a collection of different bones all fused together.

It was then onto the Physiology practical, today was following the cardiovascular (heart and circulation) theme and we started looking at ECG’s and actually understanding what they actually mean in relation to the contraction of the heart. So we had a demonstration of the taking of the ECG on a dog, and were then given a copy of the results to work from.

Heart physiology dog ecg vet school diaryI found this pretty cool as though I knew the basics previously I did not understand the physiology to link these to what is actually occuring within the body. The different leads show the potential differences at different parts of the body, and from this using Einthovens triangle we can even work out the position of the heart with the chest cavity (now how cool is that!!!). When looking at an ECG the first peak is the depolarisation of the artriums (the smaller chambers of the heart) before the big peak being the depolarisation of the ventricles which are the larger chambers of the heart.

So its finally time for anatomy and I am confident on my internal structures of the skull, as well as the common landmarks. The first question was like a slap across the face, I remembered reading about it, I just couldn’t remember what the hole was that the tweezers were pointing at… Moving on I named every process and bone until again we come back to another hole… And my mind stays blank. I knew the horse inside out, I even knew the dog, this cow skull in front of me however was a nightmare. Every species has differences, sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious. Instead of having a single large opening like the foramen lacerum in the horse which is split into different sections the cow has 3 completely seperate openings. I ended today with a C… If it had been a horse I would have scored much higher….

And then to add insult to injury, the practical session was based on all the internal structures I had spent so long learning for next weeks test… Looks like I should be back to an A next week! Anways after Anatomy this evening I walked to Tesco Hyper with a friend as I needed to get my suit dry cleaned for tommorow.

Red sky in the morning, and some tiling… (Day 44)

Tiling my sink

Today has been long, our first lecture Milk Hygiene has now been moved to 7:30am meaning that I have to now be up before sunrise. This morning had a beautiful red sky, and surprisingly failed to rain which is normally the case (at least in England!).

Anyways we then had latin and Slovak Language, we were surprised today as they reorganised stuff without telling us putting both the practical groups together for Latin, and then taking us to town for Slovak which was cool. Hopefully I will get some of my Slovak friends to spend a couple of hours this weekend going over words with me as my pronunciation is dreadful however my knowledge is getting better.

I also managed to get some laundry done today when I woke up and realised that I was down to my last clean set of clothes (still don’t know how that happened…) anyways it gave me a break from studying and I also decided to tile my sink area this afternoon at the same time as I keep splashing it and making the paint run. One of the other English guys here had done it for under 2 euros so I managed to beat that and do it for just 1.70 euros which is pretty cool. It’s made my room look a little nicer and the amount of time I am spending in here at the moment studying is crazy so every little helps improve the learning environment.

Tiling my sink

I am pretty pleased with the result as it’s the first tiling I’ve ever done, I’ve gotta touch up the paint around the edges and I also want to go round the edges with some silicone. I then headed into self-study to play guess the name with some skulls, followed by a game of guess the species. It’s slightly worrying just how difficult that is to do with skulls from animals of different sizes, and in the end we actually resorted to looking at the teeth. Now talking teeth did I mention that the teeth in these skulls after they have been cleaned of all organic matter actually rattle in their sockets? A few actually were so loose they fell out which was pretty interesting as its interesting how the roots are different to human teeth. Another thing I noticed is that the canine (dog) canine tooth is absolutely massive in relation to the size of the bone, in the skull I had at least it came a good part of the way to the top of the nose!

I’ve got to get back to studying now as the credit test tomorrow on the skull is simply going suck! Earlier this evening the internet stopped working across the entire dormitory (and rumours say campus too) so it’s been kind of weird without facebook or twitter. I have written this in word ready to copy and post for you guys so I hope you enjoy, it is looking like and all nighter for me tonight with the skull to finish learning for anatomy tomorrow.

Microbiology Test, and Antimicrobial Resistance… (Day 43)

Microbiology antimicrobials zone of inhibition

My day of Microbiology, and my first ever Microbiology test, I am slightly nervous as every professor has their own way of doing tests and so far it’s been pretty different in each case. We’ve been told that it is multiple choice however are not sure just what is going be in it as we have covered a ton of materials even in 5 weeks! It’s slightly daunting to think that this is just the start and they are warming us up slowly, I can now understand why people say that year 2 is the one that makes or breaks you.

Anyways after lecture we headed up to the microbiology lab, and walking in were separated around the room, and given a paper with 10 questions, 8 multiple choice and 2 short answer questions.  Here’s a couple of the questions from memory for you to try at home (you are free to ask Dr Google for help :))…

Q) Which type of microorganism is the Ziehl-Neelson staining method used for?
a) Mycobacterium
b) Brucella
c) Bacillus

Q) Describe the appearance of the R form of microorganism growth on solid agar.

Ok so feel free to free to leave your answer in a comment and I will follow up with my answers in a week or so. I managed to get 7 out of 10 correct (there were the typical MCQ trick questions) so ended up with my first C, not the best however it doesn’t count towards my final grade so with some work I am hopeful I can move it up to a B or even a A. I am definitely finding the understanding of why something works the way it does makes it so much interesting rather than just knowing that a certain test does x when y happens.

Anyways onto the practical, today was on antimicrobials and measuring their effectiveness. The most basic method of this is applying small paper discs soaked in the antimicrobial agent to a plate cultured with a bacteria and seeing if it grows around the disc or not. The bigger the area with no growth the more effective the microbial agent is, here’s my plate and I will show you the result next week.

Microbiology antimicrobials zone of inhibition
Testing different antimicrobial agents

Now Tuesday afternoon is my free time so I attempted to head to the library to get some studying in however they have some kind of book fair on and told me it was closed when I tried going in so I decided to head home and get some more Latin done.

Blood, vessels and the Lymphatic system… (Day 42)

Horse blood smear with erythrocytes

Start of my 6th week in vet school (only 7 more weeks left in this semester), this week is just 4 days as Friday is our Matriculation Ceremony where we official become students of the school and are presented with an official certificate to say that we are officially students. Its a formal ceremony so hopefully should have some photo’s for you showing just how well I can scrub up when I need to (saying that my suit needs drycleaning…)!

Anyways this morning was Histology, we’ve now moved onto blood cells and spent it discussing the production and identification of the different types of cells within the blood and the differences between the species. The practical session this was put into practice and we had the chance to look at the different smears. The biggest difference between mammals and birds is that the red blood cells (erythrocytes) don’t have a nucleus in mammals but do in birds.

Horse blood smear with erythrocytes
Horse (mammal) blood smear with no nucleus in red blood cells

And then you have an avian blood smear with the nucleus in red blood cells and also having a oval shaped rather than the round shape.

Avian Blood Smear with erythrocytes
Avian Blood Smear with oval shaped erythrocytes with a nucleus

There are many other cell types within the blood which we also looked at. Anyways after this it was time for Physiology where we looked at blood vessels along with blood pressure and the lymphatic system which takes care of the leaky plumbing within the body. The biggest of these vessels with the vena cava vein is up to 3cm diameter and the aorta is 2.5cm diameter… The shocking number however is that the cross sectional area of the capilary system within the body is around 2500 square cm’s! Now thats a lot of space!!!

Anyways, back to revision as I have my first microbiology credit test tommorow!

Announcement and the fix to nothing to write about… (Day 40 + 41)

Ok so this weekend I spent doing revision, in addition to making some decisions about how I am going raise the money I need to continue in vet school. Next week I will be releasing details of my new sponsorship packages which I hope will prove very attractive to businesses and give my funding that push it needs.

Now onto other things, weekends at the moment where I spend my time revising are kinda really boring to write about. I have therefore decided that my weekend posts will actually be on animal related topics either looking at something in more depth, or just writting about something that is interesting. The first of these will be next weekend, however if you have any requests please do comment and leave them here and I will try and cover it! 🙂

Genetics, Milk Tasting, Blood and Bone Marrow…(Day 39)

My first blood sample from a cow in vet school

Today has been amazing! I don’t know exactly where to start so I guess I will start at the beginning! Genetics started with more on the chromosome (it is a rather large and complex yet crucial part of all things living) and mapping of it, to put it simply if each strand of DNA was unravelled it would be over 2m long, yet fits into a structure of just micrometers…

After this it was time for milk hygiene, today was looking at mastitis and then the different nutritional properties of milk (fat content, protein, lactose etc) with the processing methods and how this affects the taste.

The most basic test for mastitis can be carried out on the farm and involves taking a small amount of milk and mixing it with the same amount of Mastitis test solution which will become a gelatinous mass if positive (like as follows)

Milk with mastitis test solution
Milk with mastitis test solution

We had four different samples to work from, 3 of which where UHT (Ultra High Temperature treated) milk which means that the milk was steralised by boiling at over 135 degress with full fat, semi-skinned and skinned  samples of this milk. We then also had a sample of semi-skinned pasteurised milk which was heat treated at 72 degrees for a minimum of 25 seconds to kill of any harmful bacteria. Now its logical that when you heat milk, you cook it which may change the content, smell, look and flavour. I personally found the UHT samples had a stronger smell, and a much stronger taste compared to the pasteurised sample. In the UK it is more common for milk to be pasteurised which whilst it has a shorter shelf life, it does contain more natural goodness in proteins and vitamins than UHT milk as the temperature also removes some of these from UHT in addition to bacteria. Considering its always been a something I’ve never actually thought about it definately has given me some food for thought. Now towards the end of this practical we had a stream of horses and riders go past the lab window. So once it ended I went to find out more…

This was the Hubert Ride to celebrate Saint Hubert the patron saint of hunting, now the ceremony was in Slovak so I did not understand much of it, however the horses were definately beautiful to look at!

Ardo with Saint Huberts Ride SlovakiaAnd there was a horse drawn carriage as well for the important people (who I did not recognise and who were not introduced) to arrive in. A speech was then given which was probably heard only by those giving it as no sound system was used.

Saint Hubert SpeechWe decided to leave here as there is only so much time you can spend looking at horses and we needed to get some wellies for the genetics practical. We managed to find a hardware store which had them relatively cheap (at 9 euros) so got these and then headed back to grab overalls for the practical.

This afternoons session was on the sampling of blood and bone marrow from the cow for chromosomal analysis. Something I was really pleased with was that there was an additional independant vet from outside the university (and in fact from a different country as well) to ensure the welfare of the animals used in the practical was maintained. Obviously as vet students there is a need to work with animals, however before doing so today we had a lecture, then a demonstration of the bone marrow technique in the anatomy museum, before then also a demonstration on a live animal.

The first sampling technique was that for blood collection from the jugular vein, the hair was clipped and the skin cleaned before collection to prevent infection. I struggled initially as I did not realise how deep under the skin the vein actually was however I did eventually get my first ever blood sample from a cow (yay!).

My first blood sample from a cow in vet schoolAfter this there was a demonstration on how to collect the bone marrow. Sedation and analgesia (pain relief) is used with bone marrow collection to ensure that the animal feels no pain. Signs of effective sedation are drooling and relaxation of the muscles. In the cow this is taken from the hip bone, and there is a small notch where the bone is thinner that is used for insertion of the collection needle. Now to enter the bone you have to gently tap the top of the needle until you can feel it enter the bone marrow cavity, you then remove the stylet (the needle inside the collection tube) and check the tip of this has bone marrow on which is thicker and more fatty than normal blood. You then attach a syringe to aspirate the bone marrow for analysis later.

My first bone marrow sample in vet school
My first ever bone marrow sample

Ok so maybe I need a hair cut :p However I was really pleased with myself for getting my first medical procedure spot on. I am also cat sitting this weekend so when I got back to dorms after a shower went to collect my new friend. Hope you’ve enjoyed todays post, no animals were harmed during todays experience, yet I have learnt so much!!! 🙂