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CTS Home > Laboratory Exercises > Laboratory Introduction

Introduction to the CTS Laboratory

Integration of the Cell and Tissue Structure and Physiology courses

Cell and Tissue Structure (CTS) is integrated with Human Physiology into a year long course that integrates structure and function. As a part of this sequence, the CTS laboratories will be spread over the full year in order to align with various topics in the Fall CTS/Physiology and the Spring Physiology/CTS courses. The Fall semester covers cell biology, cell physiology, the basic tissue types, muscle physiology and then a few selected organs (eye, ear, skin, lymphoid system). The Spring lab sessions (organ systems) will build on the Fall lab sessions (which cover the basic tissue types).

Introduction to the CTS laboratory

The laboratory experience in this course is important and is a required activity in the first year curriculum. You are expected to attend all of the scheduled labs (unless arrangements have been made ahead of time with your instructor) and to stay for the entire lab period. A portion of each semester's score will be tied to satisfactory participation in the laboratory component of the course (attending all labs and doing all the lab exercises in your lab manual).

All labs will be held in the medical student teaching laboratories on the second floor of Jordan Hall (Rooms 2-6, 2-7 and 2-8). You will have access to these laboratories at any time (using ID card reader locks on the doors to Rooms 2-6 and 2-7 and a punch lock on the door to Room 2-6, which opens by using the same punch code as the Gross Anatomy labs) for access to the computer and microscopy equipment or for general study purposes.

The length of the individual lab sessions has been reduced from 2 hours to 50 minutes, so it is important that you make efficient use of your lab time and come to lab having read the day's lab exercise. The medical class is divided into 7 lab groups (18-21 students/group); each group is assigned a faculty lab instructor and a computerized video microscope instructional station. Faculty will be present for all of the scheduled CTS labs and lab review sessions. Each lab will be given twice (as indicated on the course schedule); during the 1st lab period, Lab Groups B, D, E and G will meet; during the 2nd lab period, Lab Groups A, C, and F will meet.

If there are any problems with any of the computers, microscopic equipment, microscope slides or any other aspect of the laboratory experience, please speak to or e-mail Dr. David Moyer (Room 2-9 next to the labs) or Dr. Robert Bloodgood, the course director.

In the CTS laboratory, your primary study tools are your individual student microscope and the accompanying slide set. In addition, there are instructional stations in the lab designed for group study. Each instructional station has a computer linked to the internet and a video microscope equipped with a high quality color video camera. The computers allow access to all of the resources on the CTS/Physiology and Physiology/CTS web sites (as well as all other Internet resources). All of the equipment in the CTS labs (located in Jordan Hall 2-6, 2-7, 2-8) is available for your use at all times except when these instructional laboratories are being used for other purposes.

The CTS web site can be found under the Medical Education pages of the School of Medicine web site or can be directly accessed at: http://www.med-ed.virginia.edu/course/cell/. The web site has a wealth of material to assist in your study of cell biology and histology, including multimedia handouts, Powerpoint presentations, digitized histology images, self study materials, graded quizzes with feedback and links to internet resources. A shortcut to the CTS web site is on the desktop of all the computers in the teaching labs.

Procedure for each laboratory session:

We have designed the laboratory exercises in this course as a combination of individual and small-group activities. Each lab exercise will be consist of the following.

  1. During the first 10 minutes, your lab instructor will use the video microscope to give an orientation to selected slides for the day's laboratory exercise.
  2. During the next 35-40 minutes, you will work through the lab exercise in the lab manual using your individual student microscope and slide set. Your lab instructor will be available to assist you during this time; it is important you ask questions while you are doing the lab exercises.
  3. During the last few minutes of the lab, the lab group will get together briefly so the instructor can address any remaining problem areas with the lab exercise. For instance, if there was a structure or cell type that many students in your group had difficulty identifying, the instructor can show this using the video microscope.

Tools for Laboratory Study:

The light microscope is the primary tool to be used in the CTS/Physiology and Physiology/CTS labs for studying cells, tissues and organs of the body. You are provided with the CTS laboratory manual (written by the course faculty), an excellent individual student microscope (an expensive and delicate instrument whose use you need to master) and two boxes (labeled A and B) of topically arranged and indexed microscope slides. In a few cases, a slide identified for study may not be present in your set. In such a case, it should either be available from one of the other members of your lab group or be provided in the laboratory as a supplementary slide. Whenever possible, tissue sections for the slide sets have been made from human materials. When human tissues have not been available, tissues are usually from other primates.

You are provided with a key which fits the top drawer containing your two slide boxes, a 2nd drawer used by 2nd year students and a larger cabinet that is located below the drawers, which contains your individual Leica microscope. Please keep the top (slide box) drawer and the microscope cabinet locked when not in use. However, please do not lock the additional drawer (2nd drawer down) which will be used by a 2nd year student. You will need to use the slides and microscope throughout the year, but it is essential that you return the key at the time of the final Physiology/CTS exam at the end of the second semester. Be sure to read the descriptions of the use of your individual student microscope and the use of the instructional work stations (a video-microscope integrated with a computer with a network connection) in the lab manual prior to the first lab. When studying each microscope slide, always use the lowest power initially for orientation, and then gradually work up to higher magnifications as needed for the study of cellular details. In some cases, study of a slide with the naked eye can reveal useful information. Use the 100X lens (the only one requiring immersion oil) only when necessary and be sure to clean off all oil from the microscope lens, microscope stage and slides before you leave the lab for the day.

Besides the laboratory manual, you will be aided in your laboratory study by the use of your course atlas (Wheater's Functional Histology, 4th edition, referred to as Y&H in the lab manual for the authors: Young and Heath). Please purchase a copy of this and bring it to every lab session.

Your lab manual contains: 1) References to microscope slides in your collection in the format: (#181) and 2) References (in parentheses or brackets) to images in your histology atlas: Y&H - Wheater's Functional Histology, by Young, & Heath, 4th edition (2000).

It is important for you to review the appropriate sections in the laboratory manual before coming to each laboratory. For group study purposes, a complete digitized set of the microscopic images from your Wheater's lab manual has been placed on each laboratory computer but there are no captions. These are arranged by chapter; click the link titled "Wheater Image Gallery" found on the computer desktop under "CTS course".

During both the Fall and Spring semesters, a portion of each course examination will involve a lab examination devoted to recognition of light and electron microscopic images and their functional implications. Most of these images will be taken from your slide collection.