A web of chromatin grows along the DNA inside the nucleus of our cells – it’s represented in bright colours in this mouse nerve cell. The skeleton-like chromatin changes as stem cells develop into nerve cells, shaping the life inside by controlling access to the DNA. Understandably, scientists want to take a close look at chromatin, but many have found it too sensitive to lab techniques. Here, x-rays fired into the nucleus from many angles, gently highlight two different types of chromatin in 3D without causing any damage. One form of chromatin (blue green) is surrounded and linked to heterochromatin (red-yellow), a more compact form which affects which genes can be switched on or off, playing major roles in development. Now the x-ray technique can be applied to different types of cell (even those with genetic mutations), and heterochromatin watched as is moves and shifts, altering life as it goes.
Written by John Ankers
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.