Super-resolution microscopy is enabling scientists to look at cells with an unprecedented degree of clarity and detail, at scales that were previously unimaginable. Researchers are using this fluorescent imaging technique to take a second look at cells and, as a result, are gaining new insights into their molecular organization. For example, this super-resolution image of a rat neuron [nerve cell], reveals that a particular scaffolding protein (stained green and blue) forms regularly spaced ring-like structures (inset pictures) positioned approximately every 5000th of a millimeter along the cells’ axons – long skinny projections that transmit electrical impulses. In the human body, the longest axon is that of the sciatic nerve, running the entire length of the leg, but many other axons also stretch incredible distances. Researchers suggest that these newly observed ring structures provide extra structural support to these unusually long and gangly cell protuberances.
Written by Ruth Williams
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.