The secrets of the stem cell have long been elusive. But now, with the help of zebrafish (an embryonic fish pictured), we are unravelling their mysteries. Zebrafish larvae are incredibly useful as not only do they make stem cells in the same way as humans, but they’re also free-swimming and transparent, making them easy to study in the lab. Scientists observed that in zebrafish, an important type of stem cell known as a haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) needed a helpful hand from endotome cells – a kind of embryo cell that act as cushions to help HSCs form. As HSCs have the ability to differentiate into many of the body’s different cell types, this finding is a step forward for stem cell research; it could lead to making HSCs in the lab that could be used to treat conditions such as degenerative disorders and spinal cord injuries.
Written by Faiza Peeran
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) 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.