This might look like pop art, but what’s captured here is one endothelial cell. Billions of these cells form the endothelium – the thin, vast layer (about the area of a soccer pitch) lining our blood vessels – that controls the flow of molecules in and out of the bloodstream. When a cell is damaged, blood vessels get leaky, triggering harmful inflammation and swelling. This occurs during cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, septic shock, and many infectious diseases, such as Ebola. The cell pictured has been wounded with a needle and its response observed through a microscope. Within minutes the ruffles protruding on the left will close the wound, sweeping through like a wave leaving no sight of the injury, demonstrating the amazing self-restorative capacity of our cells. When this ability is lacking, disease will happen. Understanding how endothelial cells function, can help to develop therapies to stop blood vessels leaking.
Written by Roberta Martinelli
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.