Methodologies and Experimental Models for Therapy with Hormones

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
BIO/13 MED/13
Learning objectives
The course provides a thorough update and review of fundamental issues of methods and experimental models for hormonal therapeutic use. In particular, this course provides a strong background in the methodological basis for the development and the study of cellular and animal models related to endocrine pathophysiological research. These contents allow students to learn how to manage basic experiments with the aim to dissect hormone functions and relative pathways.
Expected learning outcomes
Students in the program will gain a though understanding of biological tools related to the development and maintenance of cellular and animal models, aimed to the study of hormonal functions. Moreover, students will be able to describe the major methods available to dissect endocrinological questions, demonstrating the expertise to design and carry out experimental studies in the field of hormone therapy as well as to interpret the results obtained.
Course syllabus and organization

(non attivo nel 21/22)

Lesson period
Second semester
Prerequisites for admission
This course requires a basic knowledge of physiology, biochemistry and endocrinology (module Molecular Approaches tTo Endocrinology).
This course requires a basic knowledge of cell biology and molecular biology (module Methods in Cell Biology).
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam will consist of an oral interview covering all the topics of the course. The mark in thirty obtained in the oral exam will be averaged with that obtained after the module of Methods in Cell Biology. The evaluation criteria are: correctness of the answers, ability to discuss, create links and critically apply the methodology in the field of endocrinological research.
Molecular Approaches to Endocrinology
Course syllabus
The course will present and discuss the major techniques of molecular biology, in relation to specific endocrinological questions, including the use of hormones in as therapeutic strategy and the study of their mechanisms of action. In particular, the following topic will be presented:

- Study of the genome, applied to hormones:
Extraction of nucleic acids for the study of gene expression, quantification, electrophoresis
DNA study through restriction endonucleases
PCR; RT-PCR; Real-Time PCR
Study of promoters; design of oligonucleotides for Real-Time PCR
Sequencing; micro and macroRNA

- Study of protein hormones, receptors and enzymes:
Protein extraction, quantification, immunoblotting
ELISA and Radio Immuno Assay
Chromatography and mass spectrometry: general concepts

- Study of protein-DNA interactions:
EMSA; DNase I Footprinting
Chromatin immunoprecipitation (Chip)

Other methods:
LC-MS/MS, practical examples (i.e. method set up; steroid molecules and catecholamines extractions from biological tissues)

Animal models applied to the study of specific hormonal conditions:
Colony maintenance, genotyping
Smear: ovarian cycle in rodent
Animal models for the study of endocrine pathophysiology
Animal models for the study of sexual differentiation
Virus infection (ICV)
Optogenetics for hormones study
Innovative techniques for the study of hormones
Behavioral analysis in rodents
Therapeutic use of hormones
Teaching methods
The course will consist on frontal lessons, classwork, discussion on scientific papers.
Teaching Resources
General and clinical endocrinology. Greenspan's. PICCIN
Molecular Biology of the Gene. Watson's. Zanichelli
All course material (e.g., slides, readings) will be made available on the e-learning website (ARIEL) of the course.
Cellular technologies
Course syllabus
The course aims to provide the basis for methods for obtaining, growing and manipulating cellular models. The following topics will be covered in the course:

The laboratory for eukaryotic cell cultures
Sterility, personal protective equipment and collective protection, biological safety hoods, incubators, small instruments and cell culture supports. Safety measures and associated risks.
Dry heat and wet heat sterilization techniques, filtrations.
The culture environment: substrates, culture medium, temperature, growth factors, serum types and chemical additives.

Cell cultures.
Advantages and disadvantages of cell cultures.
Primary cell lines: achievement and maintenance. Disaggregation of primary tissues and cultures. Separation and characterization of specific cell types present in a tissue.
Stabilized and / or immortalized cell lines: obtaining and maintaining. The transformation factors, the oncogene-mediated immortalization of cells, the hybrid systems obtained from cell fusions. Specific immortalization with transforming agents: direct tumorigenesis.
Pluripotent induced stem cells (iPSC). Obtaining, maintaining and differentiating.
Culture methods (suspension, adhesion, monolayer and 3D culture), substrates for cell culture in adhesion, analysis of cell culture morphology. Analysis of growth curves of a cell culture, subculture, mechanical or enzymatic detachment, cell counting and seeding, freezing of cell lines.

Use of bacterial cultures for the production of plasmids for cell cultures.
Growth conditions of E.Coli, liquid and solid media, growth curves, freezing and preservation, transformation with plasmid DNA, DNA extraction. Examples of bacterial vectors: plasmids, lambda bacteriophage and cosmids. Essential elements for a plasmid (origin of replication, multiple cloning site, promoter, selection markers, lactose operon and beta-galactosidase), cloning strategies. The lambda phage and its uses for cloning exogenous DNA. The cosmids.

Cell transfection techniques for gene expression study and for proteins analysis.
Genetic cargoes for protein overexpression or gene silencing: DNA plasmids (classic pDNA, enhanced episomal vectors, minicircle), antisense oligonulceotides, siRNA and micro-RNA.
Non-viral transfection vectors: chemical methods (calcium chloride, DEAE-dextran, lipofection) and physical methods (electroporation, microinjection and gene gun).
Viral vectors: advantages and disadvantages. Adenoviral, lentiviral, AAV, Herpes Simplex-based vectors. Production of viral vectors: modification of the viral genome, packaging cells, titration and analysis of the relevant replication revertants, main safety standards for working with viruses.
Transient and stable transfections; plasmid vectors with viral or inducible (tet on / tet off) promoters, reporter systems.
Genome editing: homing-endonucleases, zinc-finger systems, TALENs, CRISPR / Cas9 technology.

Fluorescence and its applications for the study of cell cultures.
Basic principles of fluorescence. Fluorochromes, fluorescent proteins and fluorescent chimeras. The fluorescence and confocal microscope. Immunocytochemistry and immunofluorescence: cell fixation, permeabilization, detection using primary and secondary fluorescent antibodies. Examples of applications of using fluorescent proteins/compounds to mark organelles, to measure cellular activity.
Fluorescence microscopy techniques: FRET, FRAP, iFRAP, FLIP, FLAP.

Introduction to cytofluorimetry, the flow cytometer, measurable parameters (density of a cell suspension, complexity, size and shape of the cells analyzed, detection of fluorescent dyes). Examples of applications: identification of different cell types within a sample, cell sorting, study of proliferation and cell cycle, measure of apoptosis.

Cell cultures assays.
Cell viability and mortality assays: based on membrane integrity (trypan blue staining, calcein-acetoxy methyl staining, propidium iodide staining, glucose 6P dehydrogenase enzyme release, lactate dehydrogenase release), based on redox potential (alamar-blue assay, MTT assay), based on mitochondrial functionality (ATP test).
Techniques for the study of cell migration, invasion, adhesion and proliferation (Boyden chamber, aggregates in matrigel, cell adhesion assay).
Examples of the use of cell cultures for the study of hormones
Teaching methods
The course will consist on frontal lessons.
Teaching Resources
Students will be provided with the slides presented during the lesson in pdf (Ariel platform); as an in-depth text is recommended: 'Colture cellulari' by Mariantonietta Meloni, Aracne editrice.
Cellular technologies
BIO/13 - EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY - University credits: 4
Lessons: 32 hours
Molecular Approaches to Endocrinology
MED/13 - ENDOCRINOLOGY AND METABOLISM - University credits: 4
Lessons: 32 hours