stem cells in their environment
05 June 2020
by Jessica Sells, Public Engagement Officer for the CSCRM
Do you have a curious mind about science and like to create? Scientists at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London, and the Imperial Stem Cell Regenerative Medicine Network have teamed up with artists from Chisenhale Studios to help you get creative about science from home!
We want you to #RecreateScience with us, so you can connect with our stem cell research whilst connecting with your inner artist. Researchers have shared their stem cell images for you to recreate from home using everyday household objects. Our artists will share their own recreations and the techniques they have used, to inspire you for your own projects.
To take part in the #RecreateScience project, scroll through our library of research images below, choose one (or more!) that speak to you, and think about what objects you can find at home to represent it. When your project is complete, either upload it to social media with the #RecreateScience hashtag and tagging our Twitter, Instagram or Facebook accounts, or you can email them to Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org to be shared from the CSCRM accounts. We want to hear your thoughts about the science behind the images, and why it has inspired you to create!
PhD Student Ieva Berzanskyte has shared this image of a Neuron. Artist Kate Hardy has recreated the image using sticks and red thread. Click here to read more about the images and Kate’s creative process.
Ana-Maria Cujba and Maritina Keleri
Ana-Maria Cujba is a PhD student at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London. She has shared an image of a miniature pancrease-like organ (a progenitor organoid). Artist Maritina Keleri has recreated the image by painting small balls of paper. Click here to read more about the images and her creative process.
Cristina Lo Celso and Hilary Rosen
Cristina Lo Celso is a Professor of Stem Cell Biology at Imperial College. She has shared a research image of leukemia cells growing in bone marrow by Delfim Duarte from her research group. Artist Hilary Rosen has recreated the image using fruit netting, click here to read more about the images and Hilary’s creative process.
Here is our gallery of research images for you to choose from. Some of the descriptions may include terms you might not be familiar with, if you need more info we have a public facing booklet available here which describes stem cell terms in it’s glossary!
Ana-Maria is a PhD student in Dr Rocio Sancho’s lab at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London. Her research involves modelling Monogenic Diabetes using human induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived organoids.
This image from a fluorescence microscope shows a pancreatic progenitor organoid (a miniaturised and simplified pancreas-like structure in a dish) derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells. I was able to determine that these cells were developing into a pancreatic organoid by staining them for the presence of specific proteins associated with this process. These human pancreatic progenitor organoids are an unlimited source of cells that can be used to grow more mature and functional insulin-secreting cells. One day, through optimising the efficiency that these cells develop into pancreatic cells, they could be used as a potential cell-based therapy for patients that suffer from diabetes, who lack the ability to produce insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels)”
This image is a from a light microscope, and shows organoids grown on top of a thick layer of Matrigel. Matrigel is a nutrient rich gel-like mix that provides the right environment for them to expand and grow. I grow these structures routinely to obtain large numbers of pancreatic organoids which I then differentiate towards more mature cells that resemble the islet cells found in the human pancreas (that secretes hormones such as insulin). I derive pancreatic organoids from iPSC from both healthy and diabetic individuals, which enables me to better understand how pancreatic islets function in patients with diabetes. In the future, these pancreatic organoids could be used for translational approaches such as drug screening and clinical-based therapies that require large number of cells.
Gaby is a PhD student at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London and is part supervised by Dr Ivo Lieberam. She is using induced Pluripotent Stem Cells to study amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterised by loss of motor neurons and muscle wasting.
This image shows neurons and neural progenitor cells differentiated from mouse embryonic stem cells, and grown in a dish. The cells have been stained to show immature neural progenitor cells (red), and more mature motor neurons (green) that grow from them. Motor neurons are a specialised neuron that sends signals from the brain to the muscles to enable muscle movement. Growing these types of neurons in a dish will allow me to investigate what happens to motor neurons during motor neuron disease (MND, ALS) and if this terrible disease can be stopped.
Blue = nucleus, green = neurons, red = progenitor cells
This image shows neurons and astrocytes differentiated from mouse embryonic stem cells, and grown in a dish. The cells have been stained to show motor neurons (green), and the astrocytes (red) that support their growth and health. Motor neurons are a specialised neuron that sends signals from the brain to the muscles to enable muscle movement. Growing these types of neurons in a dish will allow me to investigate what happens to motor neurons during motor neuron disease (MND, ALS) and if this terrible disease can be stopped.
Blue = nucleus, green = neurons, red = astrocytes
This image shows neurons growing out from the middle of a ‘neural rosette’ during differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells into cortical neurons in a dish. Neural rosettes are special structures of cells that form during the development of neurons in a dish.
This rosette has been stained to show expression of the neural progenitor marker nestin (green) and cell nuclei (blue). Neural progenitor cells grow out from the centre of the rosette, and later turn into mature cortical neurons. These cortical neurons can be used to study Alzheimer’s disease.
Ieva is a PhD student in Dr Ivo Lieberam’s Lab at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at King's College London, researching how to develop human neural stem cell based therapies for spinal cord injuries.
This image shows neurons surrounded by their helper cells astrocytes. When we think about the brain, we mostly think about neurons, when in fact it is estimated that an average cerebral cortex is populated by around 61 billion astrocytes and 16 billion neurons. Here, nuclear structures are pseudocoloured in blue, and the helper cells astrocytes are labelled in orange, emphasising the high density of astrocytes.
This image shows a network of developing neurons, derived from embryonic stem cells. As they mature, connectivity within a network is essential and resembles real development in the brain.
Network activity could enhance their maturation, thus plating them in such a high density we can start unravelling the questions of how local activity modulates neuron behaviour. Cell essential compartments have been pseudocoloured after processing - nucleus labelled in red, and the cytoplasm in green, which emphasises the unique elongated morphology of neurons.
This is an image of an embryonic chicken spinal cord. During development, although looking similar, neurons acquire different identities to become specialised. The highlighted group here is called V3 interneurons.
Once developed, they play an important part in movement and left-right coordination of the body. Growing specific types of neurons in the lab we can start dissecting the mechanisms involved in human locomotion, and develop cell therapy for paralysis.
Inês is a Research Assistant and PhD student in Fiona Watt’s lab at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine. She is doing research into oral cancer.
In this image we see the mouse’s vermilion region. This is the transition area from the interior of mouth (left), to the external part of the lip (right).
We want to understand how different the skin is in this border area and how it is affected by inflammation.
This image shows the epithelium of mouse tongue.
The different markers in this staining show how complex this organ is.
By exploring this tissue, we will better understand Oral Cancer.
In this image we see the upper lip of mouse.
It reflects the transition from lip (right) to oral mucosa (left).
We want to understand how different the skin is in this border area and how it is affected by inflammation.
Norah is a group leader at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London. Her research focusses on the development of the trophectoderm in the human embryo, which is the progenitor of early placental cells. This work will further our understanding of human embryo development and early pregnancy loss, and may in the future lead to advances in assisted reproductive treatments.
This is a human embryo 7 days after fertilisation, called a blastocyst.
Epiblast cells (red) will give rise to the fetus. Trophectoderm cells (green) will make the placenta.
Over 90% of a blastocyst’s cells are trophectoderm, showing the key role this organ plays in development.
Rocio is Lecturer and Group Leader at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine, King’s College London. Her research is based on the phenomenon of ‘plasticity’ – how cells can be stimulated to change their fate. She has shown that inducing plasticity can promote regenerationin the pancreas. This can potentially be used to replace crucial insulin-producing cells that are lost in diabetes.
This image was taken with Rocio’s good friend and colleague Markus Dieffenbacher when they were both postdocs at the London Research Institute (which was a founding institute of the Francis Crick Institute). The image shows a beautiful heart shaped duct (labelled in red) containing an insulin producing beta cell (labelled in green) in a mouse pancreas histology slide. Ductal cells in the pancreas form a ductal network by which digestive enzymes are released to the intestine. Beta cells are the cells specialised in producing the glucose regulating hormone insulin. This image was the first evidence that modulation of a protein called Fbw7 could change ductal cells to become insulin producing beta cells. The Sancho Lab at CSCRM is now exploring how this finding could be used to find new therapies to treat diabetes.
Sergi is a PhD student in Shukry Habib’s lab at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine. His project is investigating the mechanisms of stem cell-niche interaction in embryonic stem cells.
This image shows a synthetic embryo structure formed solely from stem cells cultured in the lab. The colours indicate stem cells with different properties.
Sergi uses these synthetic embryo-structures as models to investigate how stem cells communicate with each other to self-organize. By exploring cell-to-cell communication in the embryo he aims to generate better regenerative therapies.
This image shows an early mouse embryo. Sergi labelled it’s cytoskeleton (tubulin, in red) and nuclei (blue). At this stage, the embryo (morula) is as a ball of cells that can specialize and form all the tissues in the body and the placenta. Sergi uses mouse embryos to investigate how cells communicate and interact to form the adult body; he aims to understand how the communication between cells can help us generate better regenerative therapies in humans.
Victor is a Post Doctoral Reseacher in Fiona Watt’s lab at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London. He researches how Notch signalling plays a role in epidermal stem cell patterning and differentiation.
This image shows different skin cells from a human sample growing in a plate. The skin contains different cell types, and is responsible for protecting our body against external forces. In this photo you can find two types of cells that are crucial for the maintenance of skin: the smaller stem cells (or progenitors) and larger cells that are becoming specialised skin cell types. The larger red cells are the cells that have specialised and cannot divide anymore and located in the most external part of the skin. They are the ones that protects our body against mechanical forces, pathogens and dehydration for example. The smaller cells, are stem cells that are dividing our whole life forming the differentiated cells. It is very important to be able to differentiate this two cell types when we are working in the lab as we are investigating how a stem cell can become a differentiated keratinocyte (what we call the most abundant cell type in the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin).