BPoD

Oct 01

01 October 2014
Who Nose?
This is the face of someone suffering from a type of leishmaniasis – a disease affecting about two million people around the world every year. It’s caused by a tiny parasite, Leishmania, transmitted by sandfly bites, and is common in Asia, Africa, Central and South America as well as parts of southern Europe. The illness can take on many forms, including affecting the nose and other breathing equipment. But although the problems on the outside are disfiguring, there are more serious issues going on inside, including breathing problems, sinus swelling, nosebleeds and painful swallowing. In the worst cases, it can block someone’s breathing altogether. CT scans of patient’s heads – used to make this face reconstruction – enable doctors to see what’s going inside the nose and sinuses, as well as outside. Thanks to this technology, they’re understanding more about the effects of leishmaniasis and how best to care for people.
Written by Kat Arney
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Image by Raphael Abegão de Camargo and colleagues University of São Paulo Medical School, Brazil Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0) Research published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, July 2014
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01 October 2014

Who Nose?

This is the face of someone suffering from a type of leishmaniasis – a disease affecting about two million people around the world every year. It’s caused by a tiny parasite, Leishmania, transmitted by sandfly bites, and is common in Asia, Africa, Central and South America as well as parts of southern Europe. The illness can take on many forms, including affecting the nose and other breathing equipment. But although the problems on the outside are disfiguring, there are more serious issues going on inside, including breathing problems, sinus swelling, nosebleeds and painful swallowing. In the worst cases, it can block someone’s breathing altogether. CT scans of patient’s heads – used to make this face reconstruction – enable doctors to see what’s going inside the nose and sinuses, as well as outside. Thanks to this technology, they’re understanding more about the effects of leishmaniasis and how best to care for people.

Written by Kat Arney

Image by Raphael Abegão de Camargo and colleagues
University of São Paulo Medical School, Brazil
Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
Research published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, July 2014

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Sep 30

30 September 2014
Malicious Messengers
When our cells bombard each other with chemical messages called ligands, it’s not always good news. In these breast cancer cells (with their nuclei stained blue) ephrin ligands have slotted into EphA2 receptors, ‘mailboxes’ on the cell surface (green), that set off chain reactions (pink) to alter the cells’ behaviour. A flood of ephrin messages can alter the cells’ responses (top middle and right cells), but so too can changing where and when the ligands hit – their spatial pattern. The cells on the bottom row were blasted with man-made nanostructures – tiny ‘frames’ of DNA which presented different patterns of ligands to receptors on each of the three cells, resulting in different patterns of pink-coloured activity. Manipulating these messages reveals a lot about cellular communication in general, but may also guide the development of drugs to change the behaviour of ligands like ephrin, a known instigator of breast cancer progression.
Written by John Ankers
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Adapted from image by Björn Högberg and colleagues Karolinska Institutet, Sweden Copyright held by Nature Publishing Group Research published in Nature Methods, July 2014
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30 September 2014

Malicious Messengers

When our cells bombard each other with chemical messages called ligands, it’s not always good news. In these breast cancer cells (with their nuclei stained blue) ephrin ligands have slotted into EphA2 receptors, ‘mailboxes’ on the cell surface (green), that set off chain reactions (pink) to alter the cells’ behaviour. A flood of ephrin messages can alter the cells’ responses (top middle and right cells), but so too can changing where and when the ligands hit – their spatial pattern. The cells on the bottom row were blasted with man-made nanostructures – tiny ‘frames’ of DNA which presented different patterns of ligands to receptors on each of the three cells, resulting in different patterns of pink-coloured activity. Manipulating these messages reveals a lot about cellular communication in general, but may also guide the development of drugs to change the behaviour of ligands like ephrin, a known instigator of breast cancer progression.

Written by John Ankers

Adapted from image by Björn Högberg and colleagues
Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
Copyright held by Nature Publishing Group
Research published in Nature Methods, July 2014

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Sep 29

29 September 2014
Carbon Nanotube Couriers
Our genetic code is held in each of our cells in the form of tightly packed DNA. It’s the template of all the essential information for an organism’s life and must be faithfully copied each and every time a cell divides. Mistakes in the duplication of the double helix of DNA can have catastrophic consequences such as genetic abnormalities and cancer. A protein called MCM2-7 is responsible for separating the two DNA strands during the process of replication. Using electron microscopy and bioinformatics technology on Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast proteins researchers have now revealed the 3D arrangement of MCM2-7 (computer model pictured). Modelling the structure of this hexameric [made up of six subunits] protein provides insights into how it interacts with the double helix of DNA and allows its separation and duplication as cells divide.
Written by Sylvia Tognetti
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Image by Alberto RieraDNA Replication Group, Imperial College London Copyright held by original authors
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29 September 2014

Carbon Nanotube Couriers

Our genetic code is held in each of our cells in the form of tightly packed DNA. It’s the template of all the essential information for an organism’s life and must be faithfully copied each and every time a cell divides. Mistakes in the duplication of the double helix of DNA can have catastrophic consequences such as genetic abnormalities and cancer. A protein called MCM2-7 is responsible for separating the two DNA strands during the process of replication. Using electron microscopy and bioinformatics technology on Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast proteins researchers have now revealed the 3D arrangement of MCM2-7 (computer model pictured). Modelling the structure of this hexameric [made up of six subunits] protein provides insights into how it interacts with the double helix of DNA and allows its separation and duplication as cells divide.

Written by Sylvia Tognetti

Image by Alberto Riera
DNA Replication Group, Imperial College London
Copyright held by original authors

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Sep 28

28 September 2014
Carbon Nanotube Couriers
This is not a tropical archipelago photographed from space. It’s a microscopic snapshot of lung cancer cells (green and red) gobbling up tailor-made carbon nanotubes (gold). These rolled-up sheets of carbon could potentially be used to deliver drugs or genes into target cells. First, however, researchers had to figure out exactly how nanotubes get into cells, and whether they can pass through the cell membrane and directly inside the cell without being wrapped within membrane as they go. Using a powerful electron microscope, the scientists showed that nanotubes get into cells in three different ways – and confirmed they can indeed pass directly inside a cell, though the way they enter depends on the type of cell. The images also showed that the nanotubes are later safely ejected. Much more work is required, but the study at least supports the idea that nanotubes could one day be employed as therapeutic couriers.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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Image by Khuloud Al-Jamal and Izzat SuffianKing’s College LondonOriginally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)Research published in Nanoscale, June 2011
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28 September 2014

Carbon Nanotube Couriers

This is not a tropical archipelago photographed from space. It’s a microscopic snapshot of lung cancer cells (green and red) gobbling up tailor-made carbon nanotubes (gold). These rolled-up sheets of carbon could potentially be used to deliver drugs or genes into target cells. First, however, researchers had to figure out exactly how nanotubes get into cells, and whether they can pass through the cell membrane and directly inside the cell without being wrapped within membrane as they go. Using a powerful electron microscope, the scientists showed that nanotubes get into cells in three different ways – and confirmed they can indeed pass directly inside a cell, though the way they enter depends on the type of cell. The images also showed that the nanotubes are later safely ejected. Much more work is required, but the study at least supports the idea that nanotubes could one day be employed as therapeutic couriers.

Written by Daniel Cossins

Image by Khuloud Al-Jamal and Izzat Suffian
King’s College London
Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
Research published in Nanoscale, June 2011

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Sep 27

27 September 2014
Conceptual Leap
Sir Robert Edwards, who was born on this day in 1925, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the development of in vitro fertilisation (IVF). IVF is the process of fertilising an egg (or ovum) with a sperm in a laboratory dish, and gives women with fertility problems the chance to bear children. Here, the photographer has captured the moment of conception during IVF. For successful fertilisation, the sperm must penetrate the protective cumulus cells surrounding the egg (coloured yellow) and the outer membrane, called the zona pellucida (stained red-brown). Edwards had to overcome significant political and religious resistance to his novel procedure. Nonetheless, in 1978 Louise Brown, the world’s first so-called ‘test tube baby’, was born (though her conception actually took place in a Petri dish). By the time of Edwards’ death in 2013, more than four million births had resulted from IVF.
Written by Nick Kennedy
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Image by Spike WalkerWellcome ImagesOriginally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
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27 September 2014

Conceptual Leap

Sir Robert Edwards, who was born on this day in 1925, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the development of in vitro fertilisation (IVF). IVF is the process of fertilising an egg (or ovum) with a sperm in a laboratory dish, and gives women with fertility problems the chance to bear children. Here, the photographer has captured the moment of conception during IVF. For successful fertilisation, the sperm must penetrate the protective cumulus cells surrounding the egg (coloured yellow) and the outer membrane, called the zona pellucida (stained red-brown). Edwards had to overcome significant political and religious resistance to his novel procedure. Nonetheless, in 1978 Louise Brown, the world’s first so-called ‘test tube baby’, was born (though her conception actually took place in a Petri dish). By the time of Edwards’ death in 2013, more than four million births had resulted from IVF.

Written by Nick Kennedy

Image by Spike Walker
Wellcome Images
Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)

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Sep 26

26 September 2014
Enhanced Cancer Drugs
This is a cluster of breast cancer cells (shown in blue) in which some cells (pink) are dying after treatment with a drug called doxorubicin, which triggers apoptosis or programmed cell-death – where cells effectively commit suicide. Doxorubicin is also toxic to non-cancerous cells, and heart cells in particular, which limits the amount that doctors can give to patients. To overcome the problem, researchers want to deliver the drug directly to tumours in molecules chemically modified to target cancer cells. One promising approach is to combine the drug with dendrimers, repetitively branched snowflake-like molecules that can be tailor-made to have particular properties. When doxorubicin was combined with a dendrimer known to inhibit blood vessel growth, the complex penetrated tumours better than the drug alone in living mice and killed more cancer cells. The results suggest that this combination could be a good way to design new cancer drugs.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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Image by Khuloud T Al-Jamal and Izzat Suffian from the Wellcome Image Awards 2014Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
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26 September 2014

Enhanced Cancer Drugs

This is a cluster of breast cancer cells (shown in blue) in which some cells (pink) are dying after treatment with a drug called doxorubicin, which triggers apoptosis or programmed cell-death – where cells effectively commit suicide. Doxorubicin is also toxic to non-cancerous cells, and heart cells in particular, which limits the amount that doctors can give to patients. To overcome the problem, researchers want to deliver the drug directly to tumours in molecules chemically modified to target cancer cells. One promising approach is to combine the drug with dendrimers, repetitively branched snowflake-like molecules that can be tailor-made to have particular properties. When doxorubicin was combined with a dendrimer known to inhibit blood vessel growth, the complex penetrated tumours better than the drug alone in living mice and killed more cancer cells. The results suggest that this combination could be a good way to design new cancer drugs.

Written by Daniel Cossins

Image by Khuloud T Al-Jamal and Izzat Suffian from the Wellcome Image Awards 2014
Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)

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Sep 25

25 September 2014
Negative Thoughts
If you always surrounded yourself with ‘yes men’, making decisions would be impossible. Sometimes you need a pessimistic voice to filter out bad ideas and concretise the good ones. Brains are no different. Groups of neurons [nerve cells] which form memories in the hypothalamus – our memory centre – are coupled with negative cells (pictured) that say ‘no’ to certain incoming nerve signals. Together they strengthen the pathways along which the strongest impulses run, and silence the weaker ones, ensuring that only the most salient information is encoded in the memory bank. Such teamwork relies on a flexible relationship between the two types of cells. Research suggests the interaction is regulated by special protein channels on the cells’ membranes that affect the impact the negative neurons have on their partners. If only getting rid of unhelpful voices was as simple in our daily life…
Written by Jan Piotrowski
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Image by Thomas HainmüllerUniversity of Freiburg, GermanyOriginally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)Research published in PNAS, August 2014
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25 September 2014

Negative Thoughts

If you always surrounded yourself with ‘yes men’, making decisions would be impossible. Sometimes you need a pessimistic voice to filter out bad ideas and concretise the good ones. Brains are no different. Groups of neurons [nerve cells] which form memories in the hypothalamus – our memory centre – are coupled with negative cells (pictured) that say ‘no’ to certain incoming nerve signals. Together they strengthen the pathways along which the strongest impulses run, and silence the weaker ones, ensuring that only the most salient information is encoded in the memory bank. Such teamwork relies on a flexible relationship between the two types of cells. Research suggests the interaction is regulated by special protein channels on the cells’ membranes that affect the impact the negative neurons have on their partners. If only getting rid of unhelpful voices was as simple in our daily life…

Written by Jan Piotrowski

Image by Thomas Hainmüller
University of Freiburg, Germany
Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
Research published in PNAS, August 2014

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Sep 24

24 September 2014
Shark versus Superbug
In hospitals, surfaces can become invisible reservoirs for infection-causing bacteria. Bedside tables, telephones, food trays: they can all get contaminated when a patient sneezes, say, or a nurse touches them. And in many cases, cleaning protocols are not properly followed, meaning pathogens can lurk for weeks and spread, often causing severe infections. In an attempt to tackle the problem, researchers have developed an antibacterial surface material inspired by shark skin. The material is covered with a maze of tiny ridges and grooves (pictured) that make it difficult for bacteria to attach. When various surfaces were sprayed with Staphylococcus aureus, the shark-inspired material reduced contamination by 94 percent compared to a smooth surface. It even outperformed copper, which is also being studied as an antimicrobial surface. If the new material works as well in real-life settings, it could potentially reduce the number of infections acquired in hospitals.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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Image by Ethan Mann and colleaguesSharklet Technologies, USAOriginally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)Research published in Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control Journal, September 2014
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24 September 2014

Shark versus Superbug

In hospitals, surfaces can become invisible reservoirs for infection-causing bacteria. Bedside tables, telephones, food trays: they can all get contaminated when a patient sneezes, say, or a nurse touches them. And in many cases, cleaning protocols are not properly followed, meaning pathogens can lurk for weeks and spread, often causing severe infections. In an attempt to tackle the problem, researchers have developed an antibacterial surface material inspired by shark skin. The material is covered with a maze of tiny ridges and grooves (pictured) that make it difficult for bacteria to attach. When various surfaces were sprayed with Staphylococcus aureus, the shark-inspired material reduced contamination by 94 percent compared to a smooth surface. It even outperformed copper, which is also being studied as an antimicrobial surface. If the new material works as well in real-life settings, it could potentially reduce the number of infections acquired in hospitals.

Written by Daniel Cossins

Image by Ethan Mann and colleagues
Sharklet Technologies, USA
Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
Research published in Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control Journal, September 2014

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Sep 23

23 September 2014
Cellular Cleaners
Just as we take out the rubbish to keep a house tidy, the body must clean out waste and dead tissue to stay healthy. Macrophages (pictured in green) are the white blood cells in charge of this process, engulfing dead cells (shown in pink) to dispose of them. They perform day-to-day maintenance, as seen in the right panel, as well as clear out areas of inflammation, when the immune system responds to infection or damage (left panel), thanks to the combined action of two proteins on the cell surface. Known as Mer and Axl, they both detect cells which need to be removed, but each responds to a different type of problem: Mer recognises dead cells in otherwise healthy environments, while Axl is active in inflamed tissue. Failure to remove dead cells in either case may lead to autoimmune diseases, making these receptor proteins important targets for future research.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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Image by Anna Zagórska and Matt JoensWaitt Advanced Biophotonics Center, Salk Institute, USAOriginally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)Research published in Nature Immunology, September 2014
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23 September 2014

Cellular Cleaners

Just as we take out the rubbish to keep a house tidy, the body must clean out waste and dead tissue to stay healthy. Macrophages (pictured in green) are the white blood cells in charge of this process, engulfing dead cells (shown in pink) to dispose of them. They perform day-to-day maintenance, as seen in the right panel, as well as clear out areas of inflammation, when the immune system responds to infection or damage (left panel), thanks to the combined action of two proteins on the cell surface. Known as Mer and Axl, they both detect cells which need to be removed, but each responds to a different type of problem: Mer recognises dead cells in otherwise healthy environments, while Axl is active in inflamed tissue. Failure to remove dead cells in either case may lead to autoimmune diseases, making these receptor proteins important targets for future research.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

Image by Anna Zagórska and Matt Joens
Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center, Salk Institute, USA
Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
Research published in Nature Immunology, September 2014

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Sep 22

22 September 2014
Snuffing out Salmonella
The bacteria Salmonella enterica causes gastroenteritis – a grim bout of diarrhoea and vomiting – as well as more severe diseases such as typhoid. Vaccination against Salmonella bacteria is key to preventing infection. Salmonella vaccines come in two forms: living and dead. Living vaccines are made up of a weakened form of the pathogen; non-living vaccines consist of dead bacteria. Both trigger the immune system to recognise and fend off the bacteria in the event of future infection. Here, the bacteria (coloured red) are invading a human immune cell. But the big question is, which vaccine – live or dead – is best? A recent study in mice found that live vaccines killed Salmonella bacteria more quickly than non-living vaccines. Not only that, live vaccines also prevented the bacteria from replicating and spreading to other organs because it stimulated a type of immune cell called T cells that were not activated by the dead vaccine.
Written by Nick Kennedy
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Image by Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAIDOriginally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)Research published in PLOS Pathogens, September 2014
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22 September 2014

Snuffing out Salmonella

The bacteria Salmonella enterica causes gastroenteritis – a grim bout of diarrhoea and vomiting – as well as more severe diseases such as typhoid. Vaccination against Salmonella bacteria is key to preventing infection. Salmonella vaccines come in two forms: living and dead. Living vaccines are made up of a weakened form of the pathogen; non-living vaccines consist of dead bacteria. Both trigger the immune system to recognise and fend off the bacteria in the event of future infection. Here, the bacteria (coloured red) are invading a human immune cell. But the big question is, which vaccine – live or dead – is best? A recent study in mice found that live vaccines killed Salmonella bacteria more quickly than non-living vaccines. Not only that, live vaccines also prevented the bacteria from replicating and spreading to other organs because it stimulated a type of immune cell called T cells that were not activated by the dead vaccine.

Written by Nick Kennedy

Image by Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID
Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
Research published in PLOS Pathogens, September 2014

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