For a blockbuster movie, you need more than an A-list cast, you need a supporting crew to help them shine. In the human brain, neurons are the stars of the show but they wouldn’t work properly without support too. Cells called astrocytes do just this but studying their effects on neurons is often limited to human brain explants, which are in short supply. Researchers now present lab-grown 3D models – organoids – made by growing astrocytes and neurons, created from human pluripotent stem cells, in a dish together. They named these organoids asteroids (pictured). Growing astrocytes (green) with a high density of neurons (red) produced astrocytes with complex structures similar to those seen in the human brain, visualised here using fluorescent microscopy. The team were able to control the exact number of cells grown together, resulting in a tightly controlled system suitable for modelling disease and drug screening.
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.