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“Glow in the dark” worms

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This image, of an immunostaining of the nerve system of the scale­worm Harmothoeimbricata was taken by Masha Plyuscheva, from the Evolutionary Genomics laboratory (CRG). To study the bioluminescence of sea dwellers, Masha dived to collect this scale­worm. When scared, the worm detaches a glowing scale, allowing it to escape while the predator is distracted. Masha stained the scate using DAPI to mark the nuclei of the cells in blue, and labeling the nerve system in green. The blue and green cylindrical structures are tubercles, parts of the bioluminescence system where the oxidized products of the bioluminescence reaction accumulate.

This image was published in Ellipse, the PRBB monthly newspaper.

The extra finger of the chicken

The extra finger of the chicken

In this image from the CMRB we can see the induction of an extra finger in the interdigital space of a chicken. This finger has grown thanks to a microsphere (the blue dot in the image) that is covered in Activin A, a molecule with the ability to form cartilage. The microsphere was introduced in the interdigital space of the chicken embryo when it was 5 days old. After incubating it for 3 more days, the Activin A has induced the formation of the finger.

The look of the retina

The retina, or photosensitive layer, forms the deepest layer of the posterior compartment of the eye. It consists of three basic types of cells: neurones, pigmented epithelial cells and neuronal support cells. Different photoreceptor cells can be distinguished among the neurones: the colour receptive cone cells and black and white receptive rod cells. A third type of photoreceptor cells has photosensitive ganglions, responsive to light intensity. The CMRB is working on different protocols to differentiate retinal cells from stem cells, with the aim of future application in regenerative therapy. The picture shows a cell culture in the process of differentiation to retinal from stem cells, positive for the neuronal markers Pax6 in green and Tuj1 in red.

The path to life of the zebrafish

The path to life of the zebrafish

This picture of the department of Histology and Bioimaging of the CRMB shows different stages of Zebrafish embryonic development using a confocal laser microscope. The actin is stained red and in blue the yolk, which feeds the developing embryo. The phases are fist one cell, then two cells, four, and finally the result 48 hours after fertilization.

Coloring the formation of the skeleton

Coloring the formation of the skeleton

During the endochondral bone formation of vertebrates, the mesenchyme condensates and gives rise to cartilage which eventually is replaced by bone. In the picture performed by Ulrike Brandt-Bohne from the Genes and Disease Department of the CRG the bones of a newborn mouse are stained pink and the cartilages which are not ossified stained blue with an Alcian Blue/Alzizarin Red Skeletal Staining procedure. The aim of this staining was to visualize the skeletal structure of WT (wild type) versus mutant mouse models in order to detect changes in the skeletal morphology.

The colours of science

The colours of science

Science, in its day-to-day form, presents itself full of colours, as many as a painter’s palette and with the rainbow’s range of tonalities. The single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are the most common variations of the human genome. These small modifications are very useful in medical research of complex diseases and to develop new drugs. The SNPs present few variations between generations, a fact that allows us to follow the evolutionary processes in studies of population genetics. They are also used in some genetic tests, such as paternity tests or forensic analyses.

The use of SNP arrays, seen in the image, allows the analysis of up to 1 million SNPs in a single reaction. This system generates an impressive amount of data from less than one microgram of DNA; an amount of data that years ago no researcher ever dreamed of having so quickly.

This image was published in Ellipse, the PRBB monthly newspaper.

The New Cajal Era

The New Cajal Era

More than 100 years have passed after the first contributions made by Santiago Ramón y Cajal to the neural network theory. Nowadays neuroscientists take advantage of innovative tools to study neural circuits in order to understand complex behaviours.

This image by David D’Amico, from the group on neurobehavioral phenotyping of mouse models of disease at the CRG, shows the hippocampus of a transgenic mouse expressing yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) in specific subsets of central neurons. This type of tansgenic mice help scientists to understand neural networks in both physiological and pathological conditions.

Little big fly

Little big fly

In this photo taken by Cristina Morera Albert, of the CMRB, a house fly is observed with a scanning electron microscope (SEM). This type of microscope uses electrons and electromagnetic lenses to “illuminate” a sample allowing visualising the sample in 3D at high magnification.

In this case, we observe the compound eyes of the fly and its thorax, which is divided into three segments: prothorax, mesothorax and metathorax. The thorax is covered by hairs called bristles, which are always arranged in the same place and have a sensory function. One can also see the wings, which protrude from the second segment, with their nerves.

Breaking the difraction barrier

Breaking the difraction barrier

In this pseudocolored image by Gemma Perez from the UPF, we can observe the improvement in resolution of Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) microscopy (right), compared with confocal microscopy (left).

STED is one of the recently developed super-resolution methods that have broken the diffraction limit in light microscopy, and the CRG/UPF Advanced Light Microscopy Unit has one of the only two STED systems currently available in Spain.

The dots in the image show the distribution of PatL1, a component of Processing Bodies (PB), dynamic cytoplasmatic granules that are conserved among eukaryotes. PBs are too small and sometimes are in too close vicinity to be properly rendered by confocal imaging, which has a maximal resolution of 200 nm. In contrast, STED microscopy, capable of resolving distances of <80 nm, can show more details of their sizes and distribution (bar= 1 µm).

Computer simulations with pharmacological interest

Computer simulations with pharmacological interest

In this image by Ignasi Buch, from the Computational Biochemistry and Biophysics Laboratory of the GRIB (IMIM/UPF), we can see a simulation of the union of a drug with its target. The small hexagonal molecule represents the benzamidine drug, an inhibitor of tripsine, which is represented by the 3D grey molecule.

Tripsine is an enzyme which cuts proteins. Its binding to benzamidine makes it impossible for it to connect to other proteins that it should cut. This dynamic simulation of the inhibition shows how benzamidine first interacts with several regions of tripsine which help the drug to find its final binding site. Understanding the path that benzamidine follows in order to bind its target gives new clues to designing more efficient drugs.

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