Genetic Disorders, Milk Hygiene, Fire, Lethal Alleles and Monsters… (Day 81)

Hydrocephalus skull anatomy and pathology genetic lethal gene

Considering Friday is the end of the week, it is one of my busiest action packed days, I am going to try and cover as much as I can from today however. This morning started with the Genetics lecture which today was on genetic disorders, which was pretty cool.

Basically a disease can be a mutation, hereditary (comes from the parents via genes) or environmental where external influences cause it. Now looking at the genetics for a disease to be a mutation something has to go wrong in the transcription or translation stages in the cell cycle. For a disease to be hereditary it must be genetically coded and passed on from the parents, and finaly environmental is where it is caused by outside influences such as heavy metals.

Visual comparison of cream with different fat content
Visual comparison of cream with different fat content

Milk Hygiene today was looking at cream and butter, we did titration tests to calculate the fat percentage in cream which is one of the most basic quality control checks. Then with the butter we attempted to measure the water content in the butter. This test basically involves using the weight and then melting the butter over a flame to evaporate the water before measuring it again. Now this was going fine until the butter caught fire, after putting this out it did leave a rather pleasant smell in the lab, which also spread under the door and down the corridor.

After this and a short break it was time for the genetics practical, todays practical was looking at lethal and semilethal genes. From a genetics perspective a lethal factor causes > 90% mortality, a semilethal factor causes over 50% mortality and a subvital factor is less than 50% mortality. Now these are clasified according to an international standard with each animal species having a letter code:

  • A : Cattle
  • B : Horse
  • C : Pig
  • D : Sheep
  • I : Goat

The specific disease/gene is then assigned a number, for example A24 is hydrocephalus where there is excessive accumulation of fluid within the brain causing an enlarged head and the animal being stillborn or dying within a couple of days.

Hydrocephalus skull anatomy and pathology genetic lethal gene
Hydrocephalus skull

Understanding how these diseases are linked to genetics is especially crucial when it comes to breeding males. This is because with the use of artifical insemination a single male may father 100’s of animals, ensuring that only genetically healthy males are used for semen it prevents the suffering of other animals. Today has been pretty gruesome with some of the images seen, and looking at genetic disorders. It has however been extremely useful as this knowledge is essential when it comes to breeding.

White blood cells, urine, and the muscles of the abdomen and diaphragm… (Day 80)

Physiology practical for urine and urinalyses

Today started with most of last night spent revising, so am relying heavily on coffee today. I’ve got two exams today both in physiology and anatomy, however as anatomy is such a big area this week (muscles of the head, neck and spine) I am going reschedule my physiology (or resit) it next week.

Anyways onto physiology when I got in today the test was at the start (previously it has been at the end) so did not get the opportunity to reschedule so will be resitting it later next week. The good news however is that I passed my last physiology credit test with 90% (which is a A) which was on the cardiovascular system. Todays session was on the examination of urine (called urinalysis) and looking at some of the methods used in looking at white blood cells.

Physiology practical for urine and urinalyses

Urinalysis is a great tool for diagnosis as it is simple, (generally) minimally invasive, and is relatively inexpensive. The test gives good indication of the kidney and liver health whilst also covering other diseases such as diabetes (did you know diabetes is a greek word?) too. Basically it requires a urine sample, the easiest of which is collected “free-flow” in a cup when the animal needs to go. If this is not possible a catheter can be used to collect urine directly from the bladder. In some cases a sterile sample may be needed which is usually taken by a process called cystocentesis where a needle is inserted through the abdomen into the bladder under ultrasound guidance with the animal sedated.

Todays anatomy test was on a big area with the muscles of the face & head, back and neck being covered. Despite knowing every muscle I fell at the first question as I had not learnt it by the groups the muscles are in. Duh! Well they say you learn from experience and this is one I will never forget… What was the question? Name the muscles of mastication (chewing).

Well I know these are the masster (deep and superficial parts), temporalis, pterygoidei (medialis and lateralis) and the digastricus.

Better luck next week with the diaphragm, abdominal muscles and respiratory muscles! I already know the diaphragm off by heart (no pun intended) so hopefully it should go ok!

Need Some Extra Cash for the End of the Month? Five Money-Making Tips for Students.

Being strapped-for-cash is kind of part of the deal when you go on to further education. It’s like a rite of passage. Your friends who left school and went straight into work will never know what it’s like to wonder if the half tin of beans in the fridge will be alright to eat even though it’s been in there for a month, or how much washing can be crammed into a laundrette machine in order to get it all done in one load.

No, those friends have gone from being taken care of by their parents to having a steady income of their own with no abject poverty in between.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have parents who won’t mind too much if you bring home washing, or take back food scavenged from their cupboards. But having a bit of cash in your pocket for a night out or just a trip to the shops for food and essentials is really important. After all, if you wanted to be a hermit and just study all the time you’d have become a nun, or signed up to the Open University. But if you’re at a university or college and want to socialise (and live independently) then you’ll need a bit of cash to keep you going. Here are our top five tips on how to earn a bit of cash:

  1. Find a job.
    It’s important to get one that lets you earn money at a time that suits you. There is no point scrimping and scraping your way through university on minimum wage if you’re working so many hours you don’t have time to study. You also don’t want to be working every hour sent, because you also need a life!
    Think imaginatively: advertise your typing services on the Student Union board (there are plenty of students with English as an Additional Language who would welcome a native English speaker to look over their grammar and content, too). The university or college might have jobs going: cleaning, or helping at conferences held there over the summer, for example.
  2. Sell Your Belongings.
    Be careful not to sell something you’ll later have to replace or wish you hadn’t parted with, but you can earn a fair amount from selling your belongings online or through adverts at your place of study. Tap in keywords like ‘sell my netbook’ to get a list of good sites, or be more specific (e.g. ‘sell macbook pro‘) for a more tailored search for the best prices.
  3. Sell your time to other students.
    There are some students out there with plenty of cash, who would rather not do some of the grunt work associated with university or college life. Charge your time at an hourly rate or have a list of services for set prices. Things like going shopping for them; doing their laundry; taking notes in lectures for them or doing library research for them.
  4. Sell your books
    Course text books don’t tend to change much from year to year, so if you have some course books from last year, sell them at the start of the new term (or online over the summer for students who are getting their reading lists organised early).
  5. Get into freelance writing or blogging.
    It is possible to forge a career out of writing for marketing companies that buy articles containing key words to promote their clients’ businesses. Search for freelance writing jobs online and see where it takes you! Or write a blog and run some adverts that pay per click.

Immunoflourescent Assays and the power of light… (Day 71)

Veterinary Latin Revision Cards Vet School

So this morning was all on the different type of immune cells in the body which was pretty cool however the really cool bit came next. Not because of the lecture but because of all the recent breakthroughs in the use of fluorescence both in identification and even in human cancer surgery…. Anyways onto the interesting part 😀

I then had the practical session, which despite the name is not practical but more time sat listening to a lecture. I am struggling here as I learn best being active and doing rather than listening and there are no breaks so we are sat there solidly for 2.5 hours (ouch!). Today was on the Immunofluorescent assay (sounds impressive) which is in the most basic terms is using fluorescent light to identify something under a special microscope. Fluorescence comes about because certain molecules called fluorochrome’s get excited when they receive energy from light and then emit a different colour. Now the theory is pretty similar to that of the ELISA test, except in this case the labelling molecule is a fluorochrome. Now instead of reinventing the wheel and explaining this to you, the professor used a interactive online video so I am going share this with you. Goto http://www.invitrogen.com/site/us/en/home/support/Tutorials.html and then click the first one Get a Basic Understanding of Fluorescence 🙂

Now the exciting thing here is that just today there has been major breakthroughs with how powerful fluorescence and imaging actually is. Using parts from a normal DVD and the physics of lights scientists have created a way to increase the power of the emitted fluorescence by 200 times. This means that where previously crazily expensive microscopes costing millions of pounds have been needed to look for the smallest concentrations of marker fluorochrome’s this will no longer be the case. In fact the technology is so simple it can be used with simple microscopes, and even gives the possibility for this technology to reach schools and collages. The full article is here for anyone interested in reading more http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20338540

Ok so the most exciting discovery that I came across today was from a site I like to use called TED, basically it has loads of videos documenting some of the coolest new things and breakthroughs. I found a video highlighted today that was documenting how fluorescence could be used in surgery to allow cancerous tumours to be colour coded with markers to show the surgeon exactly where to cut. And the most recent project to allow for nerves to be highlighted too allowing surgeons to avoid damaging them, and more exciting allowing easier repair of nerves. You can watch the video with demonstration yourself here: http://www.ted.com/talks/quyen_nguyen_color_coded_surgery.html

This evening I spent doing revision for my resit for my Latin test tommorow, hopefully I will get the 2.5 extra points that I need to pass. Being honest I am not too concerned about my final grade here as I have both Physiology and Anatomy to follow on Thursday. I did still manage to end up with about 450 revision cards with different words and their details on though…

Veterinary Latin Revision Cards Vet SchoolNow back to learning the magic words that’ll let me pass my test! 🙂

Some surgery and the results of Latin… (Day 65)

Cat dental examination anaesthetised veterinary surgical unit

This morning one of my classmates had a exploratory dental scheduled for her cat (you might have seen him on my Twitter feed when I was catsitting). Over the past 10 days I’ve spent a lot of time with this cat at the vet clinic on campus after he suffered massive rapid weightloss trying to find the cause. This cat is FIV/FeLV positive, with a haematocrit of just 18% (read about this more in Day 21 blood composition). Narrowing it down to a problem eating because of tonsilitis and inflammation of the mouth in addition to a lower urinary tract infection has taken Urinanlysis (looking at Urine), Blood Test, Ultrasound, Cystocentesis (taking urine from the bladder with a needle through the abdomen) for a microbiology culture. Now after a course of antibiotics to treat the infection, he was scheduled to have dental radiographs (x-rays) and examination of the teeth and jaw under anaesthesia.

Now this was my first visit to the surgical center on campus so I was kinda excited to get stuck in, yet nervous with the cat’s age for the anaesthetic as it would have devastated my friend to whom he is family. Now we have a dental specialist here who examined the jaw, did the xray and took a tissue section from the back of the jaw for histological examination. Being students we get in to watch, however on this occasion we also got to monitor breathing and recovery which was pretty cool. Here is a picture I snapped whilst the radiographs were being developed.

Cat dental examination anaesthetised veterinary surgical unitOne of the most important things during anaesthesia is the regulation of body temperature is compromised, on the table a soft warm fleece blanket was used to keep him warm, and during recovery a heat lamp was also used. He came round very well when the antidote was administered and has improved futher since, all that remains now is to wait 5 days for the results of the histological examination of the tissue sample taken from his mouth.

Anyways back to the regular day, its Wednesday and the day of language.  Whilst I appreciate how important language is after last Thursday, learning how to have a converstaion with waiter in a resturant is not going to help me when it comes to animals over here. And with Latin, whilst Slovak Law still says its a requirement for prescriptions to be written in Latin, there are very few other times where I am actually going use it.

Today in Latin we got our results from last weeks credit test, quite a few failed with me being one of them. I got 18.5 when I needed 21 to pass so not far off however some of the intricacies of the Declension system (which affects the ending of the word) still escape me. Now this would be fine, however we are now studying Greek words which are part of medical latin terminology yet the declensions do not apply to these words. Now instead of just identifying the declension the word uses it is also necessary to recognise it as either Latin or Greek.

I’m not sure if I have meantioned this before but this combination has come about because whilst Rome was stronger with military, Greece had greater culture and was stronger intellectually. So when the Romans invaded they started using Greek schools and universities to learn, and the Greeks also started opening academies to teach in Rome as well.

Anyways, I now have to learn my muscles for tommorow, so I will leave it there for today! Remember even if you cannot help sponsor me financially, just sharing my diary with the share buttons below really does help as you may be the person that connects with someone that can!

Histology Credit and the science behind the ELISA test… (Day 64)

96 well ELISA test plate

As I missed histology yesterday I rescheduled to take my credit test today, whilst I didn’t originally feel that I had done well, I got a C in the written part and a B in the practical part. I was pretty pleased with this as it means I’ve only got an extra little bit of revision to do on certain areas for my final at the end of semester.

Immunology today was then on the ELISA test, which stands for the Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent assay which is one of the most common diagnostic and analytic tools available. In fact most of you reading this would have seen ELISA tests for sale in the shops in the form of pregnancy tests. Within the laboratory ELISA is usually carried out using wells in specially designed microtiter plates, and within LABS where multiple samples are processed each hour automatic reading machines are also used.

96 well ELISA test plateThe basis of an ELISA test is the binding of antigen the sample solution with molecules within the test solution to cause a change of colour. The test solution is usually coated onto the test plate in a dry form before the test, although it can also be used in solution form. Each test solution is specific to a defined disease or antibody and so there needs to be some knowledge of what is being tested for before a test can be carried out.

Just to clarify for my new readers, an antigen is a substance that when it enters the body it causes the immune system to respond. And antibodies are markers produced by the body that attach to antigens and act like tags to identify the foriegn substance so it can be destroyed by the immune system. For the purposes of ELISA this is then linked to another enzyme which causes a visible change in colour (or flourescence).

There are different methods that are used for this binding which are…

  • Direct ELISA
  • Indirect ELISA
  • Competitive ELISA
  • Sandwich ELISA

Direct ELISA

Is the original and most simple form of ELISA testing, the antigen is added to the test plate and then a protein is added to block all the other binding sites apart from the one being tested. The test solution is prepared seperately with the antibody being bound to the enzyme (forming a labelled antibody) before it is then added to the test plate. A positive result is a change in colour.

Indirect ELISA

This type of ELISA test is different to the direct ELISA as it is done in two stages. The antigen is first added to the test plate, and the blocking protein applied. A primary antibody is added to bind the the antigen, and then a secondary labelled antibody is added which binds the primary antibody. This method is less expensive and quicker as the labelled antibody no longer needs to be specific to the antigen being tested. A positive result is a change in colour

Competitive ELISA

This one is like its name and causes competition for the binding of antibodies. The sample solution with antigens is incubated with a primary unlabled antibody which binds to the antigen. This is then added to a antigen coated test plate where any unbound antibody will bind to the antigen coating the plate (if there is any unbound off course as it has already been incubated with the antigen). This is where the competition is as the more antigen in the test sample, the less free antibodies able to bind to the test well antigen. The excess sample is then washed off the plate and a secondary labelled antigen applied which binds the primary antibody, obviously if there was a lot of antigen in the sample there would have been no antibody to bind to the test well so with a positive results there will be no (or very little) change in colour.

Sandwich ELISA

No i’m not talking about the latest Subway sandwich here… This method is less common and requires 2 binding sites on each antigen as they are bound by two different antibodies (hence the sandwich). The first antibody that is coated onto the test plate is usually a polyclonal antibody which means it can recognise many different antigens and binds as much as possible from the test solution when applied. The secondary labelled antibody is usually monoclonal meaning that it binds to specific antigens. This test is more accuate as it tests for two different binding regions on the antibody, in addition to having the ability to use it with complex samples where multiple antigens may reside.

Having such a powerful diagnostic tool available is great for medicine, the biggest drawback is that each test is relatively expensive and generally specific to a single antigen. The microtiter plates in each kit can only be used once for example, however in addition as with the pregnancy test kits for humans, rapid test kits have been developed for single use in veterinary practice for specific diseases.

I am way over my word count so am going to leave it there for today 🙂

A naked look inside the nucleus at the chromosomes… (Day 60)

Human Chromosome Genetics Microscope

Another Friday, Milk hygiene today was looking at the properties of tinned milk and condensed milk. I am now at the stage where I feel like I know more about milk than any single sane person would ever want to. Some of its useful, some not so useful, and then theres the plain interesting such as how many tests are carried out. Some of its scientific such as the massive list of potential bacterias, and then theres the not so scientific such as the “Cooked Taste” that steralised milk has.

Now genetics today we started looking at the Chromosomes that basically contain the code for all living things. Its amazing how something so small can determine whether you are male or female, in fact determine everything about you. Now lets make it a little more interesting, this is what you look like when everything else is stripped away…

Human Chromosome Genetics Microscope
The Chromosomes from the nucleus of a human cell… Yes, this is what we look like inside!

Now obviously this cell nucleus has been increased, this is done by using a hypotonic solution which causes the cells to swell whilst leaving the centromeres intact. This allows you to view the chromosomes under a normal light microscope as above (this image is at 1000x magnification if I remember correctly).

When examining the chromosomes we use something called the karyotype which is unique to each animal species (the number of chromosomes is different between species too). Basically the different chromosomes are arranged on different rows representing groups based on shape, size and where their center is. Using this it is then possible to identify the species, and even determine whether it is male or female from looking at the sex chromosomes. Here are the chromosomes from a Rat…

The chromosomes from a Rat in Genetics
Rat Chromosomes under the microscope

And here are the chromosomes from cattle (cows/bulls etc), if you click on the picture you can see a bigger version as well! 🙂

Cattle Chromosomes under the microscope in Genetics
Cattle Chromosomes under the microscope

A few weeks ago you may remember me talking about the bone marrow and how it was harvested from the femur of the mouse. We came back to it this week in addition to the bone marrow and blood collected from the cow. Today we prepared these for microscopic examination removing them from the solution and staining them (they are not naturally pink/purple) onto slides.

Histology Blood and Bone Marrow Stained Slides
Blood and Bone Marrow slides prepared for the microscope

These then were examined under the microscope, and I did actually find a cell in the metaphase stage of mitosis in the bone marrow I collected from the mouse! Looks pretty cool right (the small circle of purple chromosomes)? Amazing how something so small can control something so complicated…

My mouse chromosome in metaphase stage of mitosis
Mouse chromosome in Metaphase stage of mitosis

Hopefully you have enjoyed todays diary as much as me! Now I really must sleep, Friday always is so long, and by the end I am always so exhausted I think it is because the week catches up with me.

Milk, Latin, Slovak… And the appearance of Christmas (Day 58)

Slovak Language Lessons

Another Wednesday, with the final anatomy exam for the skull tommorow this is definately going to be a long day after a very long night of Latin.

Slovak Language Lessons
Some of what we covered in grammar today…

One of my pet peeves here is that lecturers will change classes around without telling anyone until we get there (like they did with the Slovak trip to town 2 weeks ago). Today our Latin professor decided to change the timetable so everyone had Latin at the same time for her credit test, which meant that Slovak became just a 40 minute session instead of the usual 95 minute session we normally have whilst doubling the number of people in the class. Hopefully though I did manage to pass Latin, however I will not find this out until next Wednesday, rumour has it that quite a few people are failing…

Its now getting dark here at around 4pm, and we headed Tesco this evening to get some shopping in. I was extremely shocked and suprised to find that the Christmas Tree was up already in addition to in store seasonal promotions. To be honest I am no scrooge, however I really am starting to hate how commercialised Christmas is actually becoming as companies fight for your money. Kinda sad really that something that should be about being with friends and family has become so… I can’t even think of a word to go here…

Tesco's early delivery of Christmas to SlovakiaMy Christmas this year I will pet sitting for a friend on my course to allow her to go home to visit her family. It’s going be interesting as one of dogs is being rehabilitated after having spinal surgery so has no use of his back legs at the moment. Definately a learning experience.

Anyways I really must get back to skull now so I will love you and leave you…

The start of Immunology… (Day 57)

Immunology Tube Agglutination test Seriology

Today I started the immunology section of the Microbiology module, rumours at the minute are that people on the 6 year course get to do this over 13 weeks whilst for us we have just 5 weeks which does demonstrate just how intense the course is. Personally I have already done a Immunology module in the past so I am pretty lucky with this just as a refresher (yay!) though I am trying to avoid getting exemption as its more challenging to do the exams as well!

So starting with the basics, immunology is the study of the immune system which is responsible for the bodys defences against disease and injury. It is split into two parts, the adaptive and the innate immune responses.

The innate immune system is most likely to be active at the sites that are the primary point of contact with the outside world. So for example the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, urogenital tract and the ocular mucosa. Each of these areas have special adaptions to prevent disease from entering the body, whether it is sebum and sweat (both contain anitmicrobials) which is secreted by the skin, or the cilia that lines the respiratory mucosa to transport foriegn particles upwards out of the lungs. In addition within the blood there are leucocytes such as neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells that are continuously present which are ready to spring to defend against invaders. This response is relatively weak when compared to the adaptive immune response however can hold pathogens at bay for short periods of time. The innate immune system is also responsible for inflammation (which is indicated by the 5 cardinal signs: pain, swelling, heat, redness and loss of function) which help deal with the molecules released from dead or damaged cells.

The adaptive immune system however is stronger in being able to deal with pathogens, however it takes longer for the adaptive immune response to occur (usually 4 – 7 days). The adaptive immuned response is based around T lymphocytes (and the cytokine and chemokine messenger molecules) and the B lymphocytes which produce antibody. It also has a regulatory function to allow “switching off” after the pathogen has been destroyed so as not to damage the normal body tissues. Now this leads onto probably the most essential piece of knowledge, the adaptive immune system has memory, so when it encounters the same pathogen again the response is more effective and faster. This is why vaccination works, vaccination adds the pathogen into the memory bank of the immune system allowing it to deal with it before it gets a hold if it is ever encountered later on. This phenomenon is known as the secondary immune response.

When thinking about the different immune responses it can be likened to a an army patrol (the innate immune system) coming across the enemy when on patrol and sending for help from the main army base (the adaptive immune system) which then turns up to win the war.

Anyways back to the actual practical session, today we looked different methods of testing for disease through blood serum antigen (immune response causing particles) and antibodies (markers that attach to antigens) levels. One of the most valuable tests within seriology is the determination of how bad the disease actually is, and whether it is acute or chronic. This is done by a simple agglutination test either in a test tube, on a microscope slide or with a commercial kit.

Immunology Tube Agglutination test SeriologyUsing this test a serum sample is mixed with a solution that contains the associated antibodies or antigens for what is being tested. If it is a positive test the antibodies will bind to the antigens and form clumps (agglutinate).

Anyways enough for today! I’ve got to get back to Latin, until tommorow! Thank you to everyone that has supported me, even a £1 really does help and you can do it securely on the right of this page!

Nervous Tissue, Nerves, Kidneys and Urine… (Day 56)

Histology astrocyte nerve cell

Start of week 8, now I am getting really nervous about being able to raise enough money to allow me to continue in vet school next semester. Towards the end of term things are going to get more busy and my workload is going increase with more credit tests and preparation for my final exams in December and January. I really do need to find as many advertisers monthly sponsors in the next two weeks as I possibly can so I do apologise in advance for the crazy amount of tweets asking for help! If you can help please use the button to right to securely set up a monthly donation via Paypal (or contact me for Direct Debit details)

Anyways onto today, this morning when I woke up it was pouring with rain, not just a little but absolutely torrential. On the way back to dorms glancing at the stream that is between uni and the dorms which is usually a foot wide trickle I was pretty shocked to see raging waters…

Kosice Torrential Rain - Raging StreamAnyways back to my veterinary education as thats why you are here :p This morning was Histology where we looked at the different types of nerve cells, how they worked and their structure. Looking at nervous tissues cells can be broken down into neurones and glial cells, and glial cells broken down further in CNS (Central Nervous System) or PNS (Peripheral Nervous System) cells. Its amazing how much detail can be seen just with a lightmicroscope when you understand completely what you are looking for and more importantly looking at. Take for example a astrocyte

Histology astrocyte nerve cellThe astrocyte is the most numerous type of glial cell in the central nervous system (CNS) and contribute to the blood-brain barrier .which controls the flow of blood carried molecules to the brain tissue. Their processes (long strands from the main body) have feet which attach to blood vessels with the other side attaching to neurons. In addition they also store glycogen and release glucose which is used by cells for energy production.

Today I also did the resit for the Histology theory paper that I originally failed as I revised the wrong things. This time I did pass with a C which I was pretty pleased with as I knew I got 2 questions wrong as I keep getting the functions of the Rough Endoplastic Reticulum and the Golgi Aparatus back to front… Actually I wrote it the correct way round and then rubbed out the answer to switch it around (oooopss). Anyway onto the next one which will be next Monday and on everything we have covered since.

This afternoon was the Physiology lecture, today we had a specialised in the urinary system in as a guest lecturer which was pretty cool. For one of the smaller organs in the body the Kidney could said to be one of the most complicated. It has the function of removing waste products from the blood, and does this by either filtration or secretion. The most amazing thing I think I learnt here is that less than 1% of the volume that passes through the kidney is actually removed from the blood for excretion from the body. The kidneys deserve a post to themselves which they will be getting very shortly!

Until tommorow people 🙂