6 Important Anatomy & Physiology Lab Techniques

Ginelle Testa

If you’re teaching a course in anatomy and physiology, perhaps you’re looking for resources to help you introduce or reinforce fundamental A&P lab techniques that your students would benefit from knowing.

There are many lab techniques in the A&P classroom, but we’ve identified 6 important techniques to study the structure and function of the body.

We’ve also identified 6 Labster virtual labs that help you teach each technique. Not only can your students learn the methods, but they can also have fun along the way!

  1. Sample preparation
  2. Microscopy
  3. Latency to withdrawal experiment
  4. Wingate sprint test
  5. Measure blood pressure
  6. Respirometry

1. Sample preparation

Sample preparation may seem like a straightforward and easy task, but  having the whole process go correctly depends on proper sample prep. The main goal of this technique is to provide a sample of what you’re studying that’ll be used in the next steps of the protocol.

In Labster’s Meiosis virtual lab, students will prepare a sample of a lily anther for microscopy to learn how cell division occurs.

Labster virtual lab simulation featuring a lab table with various tools to learn about meiosis and a prompt.

2. Microscopy 

Scientists use microscopes (micro- = “small”; -scope = “to look at”) to study structures that are too small to see with the naked eye, like most cells. A microscope is an instrument that magnifies an object.

microscope labeled with numbers identifying each part

In Labster’s Osmosis and Diffusion virtual lab, students can see the effect of hypotonic and hypertonic solutions on cells by adding these solutions to a blood sample and observing the red blood cells under the microscope. 

3. Latency to withdrawal experiment

Withdrawal experiments are behavioral methods that assess the reaction of an animal to a nociceptive stimulus in order to measure pain-like behaviors. These experiments can be performed using different stimuli, such as heat, cold, and mechanical or electrical stimuli. The stimulus is normally applied to the animal's paw, and the time taken to withdraw the paw is recorded as the latency to withdrawal.

In Labster’s Sensory transduction virtual lab, after analyzing the in vitro data, students will determine if the differences in the effect of the two painkillers are confirmed in in-vivo studies. This includes conducting latency to withdrawal experiments.

Labster lab simulation graphic featuring a testing area where you can conduct latency to withdrawal experiments

4. Wingate sprint test

A Wingate sprint is an anaerobic test commonly performed on a cycle ergometer to determine peak anaerobic power and capacity. The common Wingate sprint procedure includes a brief warm-up phase at low intensity, followed by 20-30 seconds supramaximal sprint against high resistance, and several minutes of easy pedaling again at low intensity.

diagram illustrating the process of a Wingate sprint test

In Labster’s Exercise Physiology virtual lab, students will learn how to set up the necessary equipment and choose the settings to perform a Wingate sprint correctly. During the sprint, they’ll measure the power output, respiratory exchange ratio, and heart rate of the study participant to determine the physiological effects during the course of the interval training.

5. Measure blood pressure

Blood pressure is usually measured in the major arteries of the circulatory system. It is a good indicator of the heart's functioning and the arterial walls' elasticity and diameter. The main tools used are a sphygmomanometer (inflatable rubber cuff) and a stethoscope (rubber tube and metal piece to listen to the heart).

In Labster’s Cardiovascular Function During Exercise virtual lab, students will measure the blood pressure of their study subject, like they would in real life. They’ll also determine systolic and diastolic blood pressure by using a sphygmomanometer. They can listen to the blood flowing through the arteries with the stethoscope as many times as they want until they find the study subject’s blood pressure. 

Labster lab simulation graphic featuring a man with a blood pressure cuff and various pieces of lab equipment to study blood pressure

6. Respirometry

Respirometry refers to a group of techniques where a quantitative measurement of respiration is performed. It is based on an indirect measurement of metabolic changes by recording variations in oxygen levels in a respirometer due to the energy consumption of an experimental animal model.

Labster cellular respiration lab introduction with various screenshots from the simulation

In Labster’s Cellular Respiration: Measuring energy consumption during exercise virtual lab, students will measure cellular respiration by analyzing basketball players' blood glucose and lactic acid concentrations throughout their game. This data will be compared to experimental exercise data collected using a mouse model and respirometry.

Wrap-up of techniques

In summary, here are the six important A&P lab techniques and their accompanying virtual labs:

  1. Meiosis
  2. Osmosis and Diffusion
  3. Sensory transduction
  4. Exercise Physiology 
  5. Cardiovascular Function During Exercise
  6. Cellular Respiration

Questions to think about:

  • How could you incorporate these A&P lab techniques into your teaching plans?
  • Are these virtual labs better as self-paced homework assignments or small-group collaboration in class?

a man sitting in front of a computer monitor
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