The 2022 JoVE Researcher Innovation Awards have paved the way to highlight innovative uses of JoVE videos to conduct research and training or share knowledge outside the physical laboratory. We hope these blog posts will help you find inspiration on utilizing visual resources in the best ways.
Below you can read the winning entry by the 2022 JoVE Researcher Innovation Award winner, Dr. Victoria Alonso, Researcher and Assistant Professor at the National University of Rosario in Argentina. She explains how her JoVE video publication on drug screening methods against the causative agent of Chagas disease gained more visibility & led to collaboration with academic collaborations.
In our lab, we study the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease, an endemic disease of significant public health importance in Latin America. It currently affects an estimated 8 million people in 21 countries, with roughly 50,000 new cases per year and spreading continuously to many non-endemic regions via human migration. The two drugs for Chagas disease treatment were introduced in the 1960s (Nifurtimox, Bayer) and 1970s (Benznidazole, Roche). Both drugs are effective in newborns and the acute phase, but their use during the chronic phase is still controversial and requires prolonged treatment with frequent side effects.
These facts underscore the urgent need to intensify the search for new drugs against T. cruzi. Due to the complexity of the T. cruzi life cycle, it is difficult to evaluate new trypanocidal compounds and extrapolate their potential use in humans. We are committed to finding new drugs against this parasite; for this, we have established an assay based on determining the activity of the cytoplasmic β-galactosidase released into the culture due to membrane lysis in the presence of the substrate chlorophenol red β-D-galactopyranoside (CPRG). We described a detailed method for an in vitro drug screening against all life cycle stages of T. cruzi using parasites expressing β-galactosidase. This colorimetric assay is easy to perform and can be scaled to a high throughput format.
We used this assay for some time and found several compounds with trypanocidal activity. But, this was limited to our lab, we had homemade protocols, and the information was kept to ourselves. We had the opportunity to publish this method in the JoVE journal last year, and everything has changed since then. We optimized this assay in all life cycle stages of T. cruzi and shared the established protocol with the scientific community. Also, the video we filmed made it much easier for new lab members to get the protocol details faster. We have many undergraduate students in our lab who are digital natives and respond much better to video protocols than simply reading them.
Many researchers from Argentina and other countries have requested our T. cruzi line to perform the assay in their labs. Following our JoVE protocol allowed them to perform the assay without complications. We have also collaborated with chemistry research groups that want to test their compound against T. cruzi. We are about to set up a screening platform to test small molecules against T. cruzi life cycle stages to the public, that is, to public or private institutions.
We also used our JoVE protocol and video to teach about porpoises as part of our yearly mammalian and cell culture course for Ph.D. students. We included the protocol as part of the practical sessions and also in a discussion session. In this last part, we assigned students the following tasks:
- Test 3 small molecules isolated from American plant extracts in the three life cycle stages of T. cruzi
- Using the video protocol, list all the materials, the lines, and the reagents required
- Resume the protocol in a timeline
It was a beneficial exercise for critically evaluating a protocol, discussing every step in detail, and hopefully, contributing to the education of Ph.D. students at our University.
Chagas disease is a neglected tropical disease endemic in Latin America, and not many pharmaceutical companies are interested in searching for treatments. As a scientist in Latin America, I feel it's my responsibility to make Chagas disease visible and contribute to finding new treatments. I believe being able to standardize a drug discovery platform and share this knowledge with others is a step toward this goal. I am also committed to sharing my understanding of this disease with graduate and undergraduate students who will be healthcare professionals in the future.
Want to hear more from Dr. Victoria Alonso? Register for our upcoming 2022 Researcher Innovation Award Winners' Roundtable to hear about the use of JoVE videos to accelerate STEM research & lab training.