Body and Mind: Genetic Testing of Parkinson's Disease!

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Objective

Students will analyze and interpret genetic data to the identify the nature of a neurodengerative medical condition.

Big Idea

Genes house the data which determines our mental and physical health statuses.

Introduction

Lesson Background & Justification:

       Parkinson's Disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movement, chiefly affecting middle-aged and elderly people. It is associated with degeneration of the basal ganglia of the brain and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Like Alzheimer's,the accumulation of a protein produces a succession of neuronal events which ultimately impedes on specific neuron's ability to upkeep standard metabolic activities. This lesson, (the first half of a 2 part lesson) specifically introduces students to the molecular diagnostic side of Parkinson's and helps them to gain an appreciation for the technology that delivers this information. Furthermore, it produces a framework to aid in student's ability to appreciate the virtual surgery activity that is introduced during day 2 of the lesson.

Essential Prior Knowledge: Prior to experiencing this lesson, students should be familiar with the following content/concepts: Structure and Function of DNA, Gene Expression and Protein Synthesis, The basics of gel electrophoresis and the Structure and function of neurons. 

Lesson Preparations:

 In the effort to prepare for this lesson, I make certain that I have the following items in place: 

a) A vial of puc19 plasmid vector (small DNA fragment), a vial of lambda DNA
(large DNA fragment) and DNA Gel Loading Dye Orange obtained free of charge through the New England Biolab's Educator Support Program. 

b) A class set of Wall Street Journal Article on Parkinson's Disease or a Parkinson's Disease Infographic (1 per student).

c) Student lab books.

d) Gel Electrophoresis Equipment including: Gel Chamber, Power Source, P20 Micropipetters. (Varies by supplier) 

e) Gel Electrohoresis Reagents including: Prepared 1.5% agarose gel and TAE Buffer. 

Common Core and NGSS Standards:

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

RST.11-12.3- Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks; analyze the specific results based on explanations in the text.

HS-LS3-2- Make and defend a claim based on evidence that inheritable genetic variations may result from: (1) new genetic combinations through meiosis, (2) viable errors occurring during replication, and/or (3) mutations caused by environmental factors. [ 

MS-LS3-1Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.

RST.11-12.2- Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

Standards Rationale: 

       In the science classroom, students are regularly charged with tasks to collect and make sense of data from readings and investigations. What makes these science experiences powerful enough to retain however, is an instructor's ability to access, stimulate and develop students' higher order thinking capacities for cognitive growth and subsequently establishing sound learning practices. In this lesson, students access, analyze & interpret scientific/genetic data using gel electrophoresis and determine if two patients meet the genetic requirements of Parkinson's disease. They utilize higher level Blooms thinking skills such as modeling which in tandem with process skills such as content reorganization and paraphrasing to intimately the tangibles (wet lab) and intangibles (writing) throughout the lesson. This promotes higher engagement and time on task as students absorb the content at hand.   

Engage

15 minutes

Section Sequence:

a) Slide 1: Ask students if they are familiar with the movie displayed on the left side of the screen. Take verbal responses from students (yes or no). Use the relative number of yeses to guide how much to share and elaborate on the movie's content and success with the class. Continue to ask or share what condition the main character of this movie has and that the class will examine his before and after motor abilities pre and post Parkinson's disease onset.

b) Provide all students with a copy of the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (pages 3-4 only) and instruct students to step into the shoes of neurologist who would use this section in addition to other assessment pieces to diagnose someone with Parkinson's Disease. Provide an overview of the tool and share with the class that they will watch five minutes of the following clip and will assess his motor characteristics (in the current day) using the scale provided to them. Proceed to play the following clip for the first 5-6 minutes.

 

c) Post video, provide time for at least 3-4 students to share out their assessment of 1-2 observation characteristics. If scores indicate a less severe state of Parkinson's ask students what might account for this. Answer: The Patient was on drugs to contain his tremors and involuntary movements.

Standards Covered:

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

Explore

50 minutes

Section Primer:

        The Synuclein Alpha or SNCA gene provides instructions for making a small protein called alpha-synuclein. Alpha-synuclein is abundant in the brain, and smaller amounts are found in the heart, muscles, and other tissues. In the brain, alpha-synuclein is found mainly at the tips of nerve cells (neurons) in presynaptic terminals and interacts with fats (lipids) and proteins. Dysfucntion of this gene by way of mutation can lead to problems with the storage and release of neurotransmitters and consequently creates problems for consistent communication between neurons such as those experienced in Parkinson's patients. 

Section Sequence:

a) Slide 2: Present students with the leading question on the slide and provide an overview of the of the SNCA gene and its relationship to Parkinson's Disease. Explain how one would differentiate a mutated version versus a normal version based on gene size. 

b) Share with students that they will be provided with DNA samples of two patients and will use the genetic material (amplified genes) to diagnose them using gel electrophoresis technology. Introduce them to the hardware and reagents for the procedure and play the following instructional video to demonstrate the overall process. 

      

c) Slide 3: Post video, instruct students to record the gel template as it appears on the slide and label 2 wells patient 1 and 2 wells patient 2. Encourage students to skip wells to prevent contamination of samples.

d) Next, loosely guide students at their lab stations through the gel, buffer and DNA loading processes using questions that facilitate student actions (eg. What is our first step?, etc.). Once loaded, direct students to connect the chamber to and start the power sources. While waiting 30 minutes for the DNA to process move to Explain activity. 

e) Direct students through the gel staining process using the procedures outlined in the document Staining After Electrophoresis Instructions Using Fast Blast (Option 2, 12–15 minute staining). Read and discuss each step as a class before proceeding with the direction specifics through steps 7. As a visualization alternative (step 7), students can utilize their flashlights from their phones (holding the light over the gel) to see their blue/DNA bands. This may be especially helpful if the agarose is still very dark. 

Standards Covered:

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

RST.11-12.3- Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks; analyze the specific results based on explanations in the text.

Explain

15 minutes

Section Sequence:

a) Slide 4: Share with the students that they will learn more cellular events and molecular details that produces the characteristics outwardly visualized in the video and that is dictated by the SNCA gene. Provide students with a copy of the Wall Street Journal Article on Parkinson's Disease or a Parkinson's Disease Infographic (student choice) and introduce the concept of an anchor chart using the images projected.

b) Slide 5: Instruct students to develop their own anchor charts on Parkinson's disease using the specific criteria listed and using the article or infographric as a information reference. 

Standards Covered:

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

MS-LS3-1Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.

RST.11-12.2- Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

Wrapping Things Up!

15 minutes

Section Sequence:

a) Slide 6: Read and explain the questions presented. Instruct students to address the questions in their lab books.

b) Select volunteers to share their results and responses with the class. 

Student Result and Assessment Expectations:

  When students share out, depending on how the DNA samples are distributed (conserved with patient identity for each group or randomly), results may vary. In the exploration activity, my students were dispensed random vials for testing and assigned their own patient names to each. While this created a variety of results (as seen in both student samples), it was generally expected that students would produce 1 or 2 bands for each patient to avail their potential phenotypes (alzheimers carrier, alzheimer's free or alzhemier's condition) and would provide a data based explanation for their results. The randomness of results not only gave rise to great student conversation in the end, but maintained their interest throughout. 

Standards Covered:

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

HS-LS3-2- Make and defend a claim based on evidence that inheritable genetic variations may result from: (1) new genetic combinations through meiosis, (2) viable errors occurring during replication, and/or (3) mutations caused by environmental factors. [ 

MS-LS3-1Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.