Life Lines

The 10 winning images from the inaugural Bio-Art competition hosted by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) were announced last week. Here are my favorites:

  

Closely related species of electric fish with recordings of their electric organ discharge. This organ is used for communication and prey location, similar to echolocation used by bats. Note how the pattern differs between species. Submitted by Matthew E. Arnegard (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA), Derrick J. Zwickl (University of Kansas, Lawrence) as well as Ying Lu and Harold H. Zakon (University of Texas, Austin).

The above image is impressive because the foot processes (red branching lines) that appear on the capillaries (green) of this mouse kidney, are really tiny and normally only seen with more sophisticated microscopes. By using genetic-based labeling techniques and flourescent proteins, researchers Ivica Grgic, Craig R. Brooks, Andreas F. Hofmeister, Vanesa Bijol, Joseph V. Bonventre and Benjamin D. Humphreys have viewed these structures using a flourescent light microscope.

These processes are the extensions of podocytes, which are cells that wrap their long pedicels (the processes) around the glomerular capillaries of the kidney. The glomerulus is the structure that filters blood in order to form urine. By creating this fine weave around the capillaries, they form a filtration barrier that prevents large particles, like proteins and red blood cells, from passing into the urine, kind of like a sieve:

Filtration barrier for urine formation. Image from: J Patrakkaa and K Tryggvasona. Biochem Biophys Res Comm. 396:164-169, 2010.

Image taken using a scanning electron microscope of a podocyte wrapped around a glomerular capillary. Image from: Smoyer WE & Mundel P, J Mol Med 76:172-183 (1998)

 
 

The above image was taken from the spinal cord of a rat with the various fluorescent colors representing glutamate and nitric oxide synthesizing enzymes. This image, contributed by Li-Hsien Lin from the University of Iowa, is part of a study intended to lead to a better understanding of the interaction between glutamate and nitric oxide in the nervous system and how they might relate to cardiovascular disease.

To see more winning images, visit the FASEB website.