Before we were born, our developing bodies were home to millions of stem cells. Similar to begin with, these cells grow apart over time, changing into different parts of early tissues. In this developing liver, a blue dye highlights each cell’s nucleus, while green and red fluorescence picks out cells changing, or differentiating into specific structures – like the cholangiocytes forming the bile duct in the centre of the picture. There is huge potential in capturing stem cells before such cellular 'decisions' are made – their remarkable transformative ability could be harnessed to repair tissues later in life. Researchers can now extract pools of liver stem cells, keeping them happily 'undecided' using a bath of chemicals that mimics their natural environment. By carefully nurturing stem cells outside the body, scientists can also transplant them into living creatures like mice, providing new ways to study development and disease.
January is Love Your Liver month
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.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.