Case It! Don’t Catch It!
By: Kate O’Hare & Laurel Corbett
As teachers today, we face the constant challenge of teaching our students material in
. Luckily, lessons can run over the course of multiple days, but this is not the
labs, especially in biology. Biology classes tend to use wet labs, which are costly because they require
new specimens each time the lab is p
formed. A cost and time effective solution to the wet lab is case
uses situations about individuals dealing with everyday dilemmas and
The cases encourage students to
engage with the characters and
investigate so as to understand the
facts, values, contexts, and decisions in the s
to connect the
meaning of the story to their own lives
” (Waterman, 1998, p.3). Additionally, case
based learning is a
active learning that
critical thinking skills
inherent in the science process
school students require high amounts of engagement to learn. Often this means that the
students need to be interested and see tangible benefits of learning the material. Case
meets both of these needs. Cases meet national science standard
s such as “connecting science to real
life situations and encouraging students to think about the relationships among, science, technology,
and society,” and show students a whole new side of science not seen before (Bergland et. al, 2006).
Sometimes the h
ardest challenge in the classroom is getting students interested and engaged in the
topic. Cases help students explore different careers involving science, therefore making science more
realistic, versus reading from a textbook or listening to a lecture. T
based media, students
are able to gain experience building web pages and Internet conferencing while being introduced to the
“human side of science and its historical chronology” (Emani, 2010).
Case It! is a case
based molecular biology program
that enables students to take on various
roles in determining effects of genetic and infectious diseases on simulated cases of real people. The
students begin with background information on the patients
followed by determining a diagnosis using
software. After determining if the patient has the disease or disorder, the students can role
play the doctor telling the patient his or her diagnosis.
This article describes a lesson plan using a human Influenza case study. The steps needed to set
complete ELISA and PCR tests on the influenza virus strain will be introduced in this article. This
will give a complete lesson that can be used for high school or introductory college students, however,
there are also many more cases to be explored throu
gh Case It! inc
uding Alzheimer’s, Breast Cancer,
and AIDS, all available for free.
Case It! can be accessed on: http://uwrf.edu/caseit/caseit.html
Computer with internet access (for downloading software)
computer with pre
This fall, for the first time in several years, Sheila did not get a flu shot.
She has been very busy,
especially since she started babysitting her grandchildren (ages 1 and 3) on weekdays.
She also does not
like needles a
nd shots, so it was easy for her to come up with excuses not to go get the shot.
Sheila is 67
years old, but she has been in good health and does not have any chronic health conditions.
ago, she came down with a fever (102 degrees F), sore throa
t, and a bad cough.
She has been taking
ibuprofen, but it does not seem to be helping.
Sheila feels just awful, but she drags herself to the clinic.
The physician is concerned that the fever has not subsided, and because Sheila's age places her at some
risk for serious complications from influenza, she decides to test Sheila for influenza and takes a throat
Although Sheila's grandchildren have not been with her the past two days, they did stay
at her house the day before she got sick.
physician suggests that both children be tested, even
though they have not yet shown any symptoms.
Part 1: Running an ELISA
Once CaseIt! is opened, begin by starting a laboratory procedure. In this case we will
start with an
ELISA. First click on the “protein” button on the “silver button bar” (figure 1) to open the proteins
needed to run the ELISA (figure 2). To
speed up the process, click on the top
icon, in this case “protein1_year_old.txt,”
hold the shift key
, and click the last icon,
in this case “protein Sheila.txt.”
There is a help window on the right
side of the screen with extra directions.
There are also tutorials on the CaseIt!
homepage which can help you through
all the different techniques and
To see the
proteins and antibodies in the
same window (figu
re 4) go to Cases
>Infectious disease cases
>ELISA (figure 3).
Next, you need to open the antibodies
by clicking “Antibody” on the “silver
button bar,” and then by going through the same process.
This “Opened & proces
sed” window will pop up when all your
proteins and antibodies are loaded correctly (figure 4).
To run the ELISA, first double click on the antibody to be used,
in the “Opened & processed” window. Then select all the
proteins by clicking the
top one, holding down the shift key,
and clicking the bottom protein. Then, click the “Open
Load/Run” button at the bottom of the window, select
“ELISA”, and finally select “Option 2: Load same antibody,
different proteins” (figure 5).
This will load your
plate with the proteins and
antibody needed to run your first ELISA. Once the proteins
and antibodies are loaded, click the “Run” button to run
the ELISA. The following figure is an example of what the
ELISA plate will look like for the antibody A (figur
To run the ELISA with antibody B, go back to the
“Opened & processed window,” double click on antibody
B, select the proteins, and run ELISA
through the quick load button. The
next figure shows what the ELISA plate
ok like after
running the proteins with Antibody B
Part2: Running a PCR
The second part of this case study is running a PCR
(Polymerase Chain Reaction) to isolate and amplify
the DNA present in a
sample. To do this, select
“Primer” from the “Buttons” screen (or silver button
bar if it is already activated) and open both primers,
A and B. Next, select the DNA samples from Shelia,
her grandchildren, and the positive and negative
controls (figure 8)
Now that the DNA and primers are open, double click on one of the primers to activate it on your
“Opened & Processed” window. Choose the top DNA sample and while holding the shift key, click
on the last DNA sample to highlight all of the samples. On th
e quick load and run bar, find PCR and
run a PCR (figure 9).
Thus far, we have created the PCR samples but have not analyzed them. In the “Opened &
Processed” window, a new set of DNA will appear following arrows. Select all of these samples an in
uick Load/ Run” drop screen choose DNA gel (figure 10). The gel will be loaded and the PCR
into the gel.
The results for the PCR are shown below. Figure 11 shows the results when using “Primer A” and
shows the result when using “Primer B.”
If the students are not
familiar with how to read PCR
results on gel, this would be a
good time to introduce them
to the topic.
Computer with internet access (for
downloading software) OR computer with pre
**must be PC for bioinformatics
MEGA4 software (free download found on Case
Bioinformatics is the application of computers and technology to the field of molecular bi
Through these technologies, strains of different diseases and disorders can be identified. Following the
tutorial on the site, students can BLAST sequences of DNA against already known strains of influenza
and other diseases/disorders.
niques will allow the scientist to determine the origin of
different strains and deduce how a person contracted his or her disease and disorder as well as allow a
patient to be treated with a more specific medication.
The software students use in the Bioi
portion of Case It! is the same software used by scientists.
The following website is a detailed tutorial for the Bioinformatics extension of Case It!
(Case It! Website)
Influenza B viruses generally respond well to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and
zanamivir (Relenza), which inhibit neuraminidase activity.
However, influenza B viruses have been
isolated this sea
son that show some resistance to oseltamivir.
Compare the neuraminidase sequence
isolated from Sheila’s virus to these resistant virus isolates as well as to some drug
Does it look like oseltamivir will be an effective treatment for S
What other options does she
: Use the sequences in the Bioinformatics folder, rather than the PCR folder, for this
The web page extension allows students to create posters online and share them with other
Students can participate in web conferencing with other students in their class, school, state, country,
and nationwide. It is a great way for students to inquire and test others theories as well as expand their
Case It! is an
exceptional learning tool for students at the high school and college level. It offers
lab experiences that are normally expensive and time consuming, free of charge that only take a class
period to complete. Students receive the same experiences due to
the realistic interface of the
program. In addition to these features, the program offers extensions in bioinformatics and web pages.
Combined with role
doctors, scientists and gene therapists
, the program and its extensions offer
students the op
portunity to excel in more than just the field of science, but also as individuals.
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, Sweet, J
, Emmons, J
, Martin, C., Marsh, K., Werner, J.,
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Emani, C. (2010). Using the “dna story” to inculcate a scientific thought pr
ocess in the classroom.
American Biology Teacher
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abt.2010.72.7.4 doi: 10.1525
Styer, S. C. (2009). Constructing & Using Case Studies
in Genetics To Engage Students in Active Learning.
American Biology Teacher
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143. Retrieved from EBSCO
Waterman, M. (1998). Investigative case study approach for biology learning.