Understanding Cell Waste: Aging and Autophagy

From Dr. Chiara Bertipaglia, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Cell Biology & Pathology Department, Columbia University, New York Field of Research: Cell Biology The name “autophagy” comes from the Greek and literally means “self-eating.” As surprising as it may seem, every cell of our body digests its own parts on a regular basis during its life. Like all living things, cells as a whole, or just some of their intracellular components, become old. As such, they can have a toxic and damaging effect. The brains of patients affected by neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s or Parkinson’s show so called “inclusion bodies,” that is to say, solid masses of accumulated toxic material. Thus, such waste must be disposed of. Cells have evolved autophagy as a way to get rid of their aged material: they enwrap it into vesicles, which are shells made up of lipids, to deliver it to specialized compartments so it can be degraded – more or less like the garbage trucks that collect trash from the street and transport it to the dumping ground. In the image, one autophagy vesicle carrying cellular garbage has been extracted from cells and imaged under a transmission electron microscope. This type of microscopy allows scientists to visualize fine details, such as the two layers of shells these vesicles actually possess. The size is about 200 nm (20,000 times smaller than 1 mm) The content is so densely packed that appears like a black, granular spot.     Learn more about Dr. Bertipaglia’s research: Bertipaglia C. et al., EMBO Reports (2016). http://embor.embopress.org/content/17/7/1044.long     Please follow and like... read more
Ice in Microfluidics

Ice in Microfluidics

From Dr. Ran Drori, Postdoctoral Associate, Chemistry Department, New York University   Field of Research: Biophysics   Image Caption: Ice crystals in a microfluidic device. This image was taken in 2014 as part of a research project on ice-binding proteins in Professor Ido Braslavsky’s lab at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.   Biophysics is an exciting interdisciplinary field that applies the laws and approaches of physics to biological phenomena. This important area of study has contributed vastly to our knowledge about how the body works. For example, our understanding of the cardiovascular system, blood pressure in particular, is based on pioneering work in biophysics. This image highlights a beautiful aspect of biophysics research – a visualization of how ice-binding proteins adsorb to ice and inhibit its growth. It shows microscopic ice crystals inside microfluidic channels (100-150 micrometers wide) and it was taken when the temperature was quickly reduced to reveal dendrite crystal growth. Ice-binding proteins interact with ice and change the growth of ice crystals. These proteins are found in a variety of organisms that have adapted to survive cold environments, including fish, insects, plants, fungi and bacteria. The results from this study revealed key elements on how ice-binding proteins adsorb to ice and inhibit its growth. Learn more about Dr. Drori’s research: Drori R., Celik Y., P. L. Davies, and I. Braslavsky. J. R. Soc. Interface (2014) Drori, R., P. L. Davies, and I. Braslavsky. RSC Advances (2015) Drori, R., P. L. Davies, and I. Braslavsky. Langmuir (2015)   Please follow and like... read more
Lighting up Cells to Study Malaria

Lighting up Cells to Study Malaria

From Dr. Min Zhang, Associate Research Scientist, Department of Pathology, New York University Medical Center, New York, NY   Field of Research: Cellular biology   Image Caption: GFP-tagging was used to identify the sporozoite stage in the malaria parasite lifecycle.   The field of cellular biology uses various tools and techniques to study the fundamental basis of life. Cells are tiny powerhouses that perform vital functions and work together in a group to make up the organ systems in our body. Research in cellular biology has revealed a great wealth of information that has informed the development of therapies for cancer, autoimmune disorders, infectious diseases, and many others. This image shows a sneak peak into the lifecycle of the plasmodium parasite (the malaria parasite). Green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagging is a common technique that is used to visualize and study cells under the microscope or in a living organism. By using techniques such as GFP, researchers can illuminate certain types of cells that they are interested in studying. In order to develop more effective treatments, researchers must first acquire a comprehensive understanding of how an organism, in this case, malaria, grows into an infectious parasite. In this image, GFP was used to identify the sporozoite stage of the parasite, the cells that develop in mosquitoes’ salivary glands. After a mosquito has consumed a blood meal, the sporozoites enter the liver where they grow and multiple. This type of research is crucial both our understanding of basic cellular biology as well as malaria infection. Learn more about Dr. Zhang’s research: Zhang M, Mishra S, Sakthivel R, Fontoura BM, & Nussenzweig V. PLoS Pathog (2016) Huang J, Tsao T, Zhang M, Rai... read more
Science Artwork of the Month: November 2015

Science Artwork of the Month: November 2015

By Dr. Rer. Medic. (German Ph.D. equivalent) Anton Goetz This image shows murine dendritic cells breaking down fluorescently-labeled gelatin with special structures on their cytoskeleton called podosomes. The gelatin is shown in green, the nucleus of the cells inis shown in blue, and the podosomes are the small red dots on the edge of the migrating dendritic cells. Dendritic cells are the sentinels of the immune system. They reside throughout the body and, when they encounter pathogens, they become activated and migrate to the lymph nodes to show the pathogen to other cells of the immune system, like T cells, which initiate the immune response against the intruder.  Dr. Anton Goetz NYU School of Medicine Department of Microbiology Division of Medical Parasitology Ana Rodriguez’s Lab Please follow and like... read more
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