DEVELOPING RESOURCES FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING CELL AND PARASITE CULTURE WITHIN THE DMU E-PARASITOLOGY PACKAGE
Cultivation of parasites is not a routine identification technique for human parasitic diseases but provides invaluable help in patient care, research and epidemiology, particularly in the diagnosis, management, control and prevention of these diseases. Moreover, culture facilitates students’ learning and understanding of the complex morphology, physiology, life cycle and host-parasite relationships of parasites. However, cultivation of parasites can be fastidious and requires specific techniques, resources and skills that may not be available in many biomedical laboratories. Thus, among other factors, cultivation of specific forms of some parasites or species requires in vitro culture of cells to be successful. For example, the emerging human protozoan pathogen Enterocytozoon bieneusi, the most frequently diagnosed microsporidial species in humans, has been successfully cultured only in short term cultures (6 months) and requires animal cells. An innovative teaching group of academics from De Montfort University (DMU), University of San Pablo CEU (USP-CEU, Spain) and University Miguel Hernández (Spain), in conjunction with clinicians and practising Biomedical Scientists from the UK National Health Service are developing on-line resources for teaching and learning the different steps and phases for cultivating mammalian cells (including human cells) and parasites in a biomedical laboratory. These resources or units will be a key part of the “virtual laboratory” section of the novel package DMU e-Parasitology, which will be publicly accessible through the DMU website later in 2018 (http://parasitology.dmu.ac.uk). Cell culture related units are being developed in close collaboration with academics that have built a real cell and parasite culture laboratory. Specific units that describe the basic equipment and resources to cultivate cells and these organisms in a standard biosafety level 2 (BSL-2) medical laboratory (e.g. biological safety cabinet class II, incubators, sterilization, cryogenic storage and inverted microscope) and its workflow are being developed. These units will be highly interactive and engaging and will present short videos of a technician/scientist working in real conditions with this equipment to enhance students’ understanding and learning. Short formative assessments will be introduced to facilitate the self-evaluation of users’ learning. Finally, photographs and short videos of different human parasites in different media and cultures are being produced and introduced in the “virtual microscope” section of the DMU e-Parasitology. Users will be able to zoom in and out and move around of each sample simulating real parasite cultures. Moreover, students will be able to gain a complete understanding of the different structures and characteristics of major human parasites for clinical diagnostic purposes. We consider that the novel teaching and learning resource DMU e-Parasitology will help students and academics around the world in the teaching and study of human parasitology, making this relevant subject more interesting. Academics will be able to enrich their strategies for teaching and make their sessions more appetising and stimulating. Finally, DMU e-Parasitology could help educators in course development and could be used for training purposes by future technicians that will work in a cell or parasite culture laboratory.