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Environmental Factor, July 2012

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NIEHS researchers publish in scientific video journal

By Robin Arnette

Guang Hu, Ph.D.

Hu leads the Stem Cell Biology Group within LMC. His group studies the molecular basis of self-renewal and differentiation in embryonic stem cells. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Xiaofeng Zheng, Ph.D.

Zheng is prominently featured in the JoVE video. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

For researchers, being able to duplicate the results that appear in journal articles is fundamental to science, but even the most meticulously written materials and methods section doesn’t explain all of the essential details. That’s why Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis (LMC) researcher Guang Hu, Ph.D., and visiting fellow Xiaofeng Zheng, Ph.D., used a video to demonstrate the procedures they used in their experiments.

Zheng and Hu published their findings in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), the first scientific journal dedicated to capturing the intricacies of life science research using printed word and video. Their paper, titled “Oct4GiP reporter assay to study genes that regulate mouse embryonic stem cell maintenance and self-renewal,” appeared online May 30 in JoVE. 

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Lights, camera, action

A JoVE videographer came to NIEHS and filmed Zheng doing a technique he and Hu developed called the Oct4GiP reporter assay. The assay allows researchers to quickly identify and study important genes in mouse embryonic stem cell self-renewal and differentiation.

“Compared to other methods, it is more convenient, sensitive, quantitative, and has a lower cost,” Zheng said of the procedure. “It is especially suited for large-scale studies such as high-throughput screens or genetic epistasis analysis.”

One of the steps of the Oct4GiP reporter assay requires introducing small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) artificially into cells, also known as transfection. Zheng had to carefully calculate, count, pipet, and mix the transfection reagents and cells to ensure that the cells were evenly plated and that a majority of them successfully received the siRNAs. Zheng and Hu believe having the step-by-step process on video will help other scientists bypass many of the potential pitfalls that could lead to experimental failure.

Seeing is believing

JoVE started in 2006 and, since June 2012, has published 64 issues containing more than 1,700 video protocols. The videos are divided into in six categories: general, neuroscience, immunology and infection, clinical and translational medicine, bioengineering, and applied physics.

Although Zheng and Hu are the first NIEHS investigators to publish in JoVE, 12 other institutes within the National Institutes of Health have released JoVE video articles. Several local universities have gotten in on the action, as well. Duke University leads the way with 15 JoVe videos. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has seven, while North Carolina State University has two. North Carolina Central University rounds out the list with one.

Hu said that he and his group found out about JoVE a few years ago, and benefitted from watching several of their video protocols. When it came time to publish their work on the Oct4GiP reporter assay, they didn’t hesitate to submit their manuscript to JoVE.

“Presenting the assay in a video format provides visual guidance for people who are not familiar with the techniques,” Hu said. “It helps them perform the experiments much more easily and is more effective than just reading the text.”

Citation: Zheng X, Hu G. 2012. Oct4GiP reporter assay to study genes that regulate mouse embryonic stem cell maintenance and self-renewal. J Vis Exp 63:e3987; doi:10.3791/3987 [Online 30 May 2012].

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