The neurons [brain cells] in this image – in its entirety as wide as a human hair – were grown from stem cells which, when given the right signals, can become any sort of body cell. Neurons have a nucleus (here coloured blue) and a long tail – an axon (red), commonly known as a nerve. A protein known as 4R tau is highlighted in the axons with a green stain. Normally, neurons grown from stem cells have only a small amount of 4R tau protein, but scientists genetically modified these cells to produce much more. An imbalance in the amount of 4R tau relative to other proteins has been found in the brains of people with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Looking at genetically modified neurons in the lab could yield clues about the relevance of 4R tau imbalance for degenerative brain disease.
Written by Alice Lighton
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.