Image of the Week, Infectious Disease, Public Health, Research
on March 3rd, 2013
A University of California, Los Angeles study published online this week in Science offers clues about how various bacteria masquerade as viruses and, as a result, trick the immune system into using the wrong defense strategy. As explained in a university release, the bacteria manipulates the body into using a protein called interferon-beta to fend off its attack, but such an approach dose more harm than good:
Not only is interferon-beta ineffective against bacteria, but it can also block the action of interferon-gamma, to the advantage of bacteria. Further, if a real virus were to infect the body, triggering interferon-beta, it would divert the attention of the immune response, preventing an attack on the bacterial invader. The researchers say this may explain why the flu can lead to a more serious bacteria-based infection like pneumonia.
In the study, researchers used leprosy as a model to understand how bacteria can fool the immune system. Senor author Robert Modlin, MD, said the team opted to study leprosy because it “is an outstanding model for studying immune mechanisms in host defense since it presents as a clinical spectrum that correlates with the level and type of immune response of the pathogen.”
The above image shows leprosy bacteria marked in red and with the interferon-beta highlighted in green.
Photo by UCLA
Image of the Week, Imaging, Pediatrics, Pregnancy
on February 24th, 2013
By combining scans of healthy fetuses in the womb, including that of a woman who agreed to weekly electrocardiography scans starting at 18 weeks gestation until just prior to delivery, a team of UK-based researchers have created a 3D computerized model of the activity and architecture of human heart development. Their findings were published Thursday in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface Focus. According to a University of Leeds release:
Although [researchers] saw four clearly defined chambers in the foetal heart from the eighth week of pregnancy, they did not find organised muscle tissue until the 20th week, much later than expected.
Developing an accurate, computerised simulation of the foetal heart is critical to understanding normal heart development in the womb and, eventually, to opening new ways of detecting and dealing with some functional abnormalities early in pregnancy.
The above image shows an MRI scan of the heart of a 139-day-old fetus as seen from the top, with the muscle cells highlighted in red. An accompanying video illustrates fetal hearts at different stages of gestation.
Photo by University of Leeds
Image of the Week, Research
on February 17th, 2013
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new imaging system capable of rapidly producing three-dimensional renderings of thousands of zebrafish larvae and analyzing their physical traits. The automated system could aid drug development, as explained in a release:
Zebrafish are genetically similar to humans and have many of the same developmental pathways, so scientists often use them to model human diseases including cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and autism.
Using the new technology, researchers can grow larvae in tiny wells and flow them through a channel to an imaging platform. Once there, the embryos are rotated and 320 images are taken from different angles, allowing 3-D reconstructions to be made using optical projection tomography (OPT). Getting larvae to the platform takes about 15 seconds, and the imaging takes only 2.5 seconds. This allows hundreds or thousands of larvae to be imaged within hours.
They also created a computer algorithm that can measure hundreds of traits and use that information to create a comprehensive phenotype map — the overall description of an organism’s characteristics — for each larva. This enables rapid and detailed studies of how different drugs affect those phenotypes.
This image above depicts the cartilage that forms the skull of a five-day-old zebrafish larva. Total size of the skull is about 1 millimeter long.
Previously: A very small fish with very big potential and Zebrafish shed light on what happens when we sleep
Photo by MIT News Office
HIV/AIDS, Image of the Week
on February 10th, 2013
Artist Luke Jerram has created a remarkable collection of glass sculptures depicting some of the most notorious microbes. This image illustrates the HIV virus and, as noted on Jerram’s website, was made as an object “to hold, to contemplate the impact of the disease upon humanity.”
One HIV-positive patient who viewed a photo of the sculpture at an exhibit in 2009 wrote to Jerram saying:
I just saw a photo of your glass sculpture of HIV. I can’t stop looking at it. Knowing that millions of those guys are in me, and will be a part of me for the rest of my life. Your sculpture, even as a photo, has made HIV much more real for me than any photo or illustration I’ve ever seen. It’s a very odd feeling seeing my enemy, and the eventual likely cause of my death, and finding it so beautiful. Thank you.
Jerram’s glass microbiology sculptures are currently on display at New York City’s Museum of Art and Design.
Previously: Engineering immune cells to resist HIV and Stanford expert discusses recommendation for universal HIV screening
Via Fast Company
Photo by Luke Jerram
Image of the Week, Stanford News
on February 3rd, 2013
Stanford developmental biologist Lucy Shapiro, PhD, wasn’t always destined for a career in science – originally she was a fine arts major. But thank goodness she changed her mind. Because as Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, said in our recent release, “Dr. Shapiro’s contributions to the field of systems developmental biology have revolutionized our understanding of bacterial genetic networks and led to the development of desperately needed novel drugs to counter the spread of antibiotic resistance and emerging infectious diseases.”
On Friday, President Barack Obama honored Shapiro’s accomplishments by presenting her with the National Medal of Science. The above photo was taken at the ceremony where Shapiro, along with Sidney Drell, PhD, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, and 21 other researchers and innovators were lauded for their contributions to science, technology and innovation.
Previously: President Obama awards National Medal of Science to Stanford’s Lucy Shapiro and Stanford’s Lucy Shapiro receives National Medal of Science
Photo by National Science and Technology Medals Foundation
Image of the Week, Imaging, Neuroscience
on January 27th, 2013
In a paper (subscription required) published this week in Nature, Cornell researchers demonstrated a new way of taking high-resolution, three-dimensional images of the brain’s inner workings through a three-fold improvement in the depth limits of multiphoton microscopy, a fluorescence-based imaging technique.
The striking image above illustrates the technique and depicts a horizontal frame from three-dimensional reconstructed three-photon microscopy images in a mouse brain. Neurons are shown in red, blood vessels are labeled in blue and the dark holes are non-fluorescent neurons. A Cornell release offers more details about the work and the its significance from a basic research and clinical perspective:
Using a mouse model, the researchers have proved the principle of three-photon microscopy operating at a wavelength of 1,700 nanometers. This, in combination with the new laser specifically created for three-photon excitation, allows the researchers to perform high-resolution imaging of neurons at unprecedented depths within a mouse brain.
Pushing these depth limits is important for basic science and eventually could prove useful clinically, [senior author Chris Xu, PhD,] said. Depression and diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are associated with changes deep inside the brain, and finding the cures could be helped by subcortical neural imaging — that is, below the gray matter of the brain and into the white matter and beyond, if the brain is visualized as stacked layers.
Photo by Xu Lab
Image of the Week, In the News, Infectious Disease
on January 20th, 2013
Although flu activity appears to be easing in some parts of the country, the virus reached a widespread level in California contributing to illness and hospitalization around the state, the Los Angeles Times recently reported.
More from the article:
The state’s number of outpatient visits and hospitalizations is higher than normal for mid-January, signaling either an early start to the Caliornia flu season or a sign that this year’s flu could be more severe than usual, [Gil Chavez, state epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health] said. The flu typically peaks in late February or early March, he said.
Five Californians under the age of 65 have died from this year’s flu. Chavez said the department is not able to track flu deaths of people over the age of 65.
The above image shows a negative-stained transmission electron micrograph depicting the ultrastructural details of an influenza virus particle. To avoid getting the bug, public health officials say there’s still time to be vaccinated. And athough there have been spot shortages of the flu shot, there is still adequate supply. To find out which location nearest you has the vaccine, plug your address or zip code into the HealthMap Vaccine Finder.
Previously: Does exercise amplify the flu shot’s effect?, Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions about seasonal and Student “Flu Crew” brings no-cost flu vaccinations to the community
Image of the Week
on January 13th, 2013
Last month, Brian Kobilka, MD, chair of molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford, was honored at a ceremony in Stockholm for receiving the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. As we announced in October, Kobilka won the award alongside Robert Lefkowitz, MD, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at Duke University, for his work on G-protein-coupled receptors, or GPCRs, which serve as one of the body’s main methods of conveying chemical signals.
During the ceremony, Kobilka was presented with the stunning Nobel diploma above. As explained on the Nobel Prize website, the prize-awarding bodies decide the design of the diplomas, and each one is inspired by the laureate’s work:
The Swedish Academy has always used individual designs related to each Laureate. The artists have tried to summarize something of the atmosphere and character of each author’s works. Because the Prize winners are not announced until mid-October and the diplomas must be ready before December 10, the diploma artist has only a few weeks to summarize the collected works or personal attributes of each author.
Today each Nobel diploma is a unique work of art. The Literature diploma is written on parchment, i.e. specially treated leather, using largely the same technique as those of medieval book illustrators. The diplomas given to the other Laureates are produced on specially ordered handmade paper.
The image was produced by artist Susanne Jardeback, calligrapher Annika Rücker, book binder Ingemar Dackéus and photo reproductionist Lovisa Engblom.
Previously: Going behind-the-scenes at Nobel Laureate Brian Kobilka’s press conference, Memorable moments from Brian Kobilka’s Nobel win captured on Storify, Image of the Week: Nobel Laureate Brian Kobilka celebrates with colleagues and friends, A busy morning for Nobel Laureate Brian Kobilka and Stanford’s Brian Kobilka wins 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Photo by The Nobel Foundation 2012
Addiction, Image of the Week, Stanford News
on December 23rd, 2012
Tobacco companies began a campaign to manipulate throat doctors into helping calm the public’s growing fears that smoking might be bad for their health in the 1920s. The practice of using doctors to peddle tobacco products continued for 50 years, despite overwhelming scientific evidence pointing to the hazards of smoking.
Through his studies on the intricate relationship between doctors and cigarette companies, Robert Jackler, MD, professor and chair of otolaryngology, and his wife, Laurie, have amassed a collection of more than 10,000 original tobacco ads, which were featured in an exhibit at the New York Public Library.
Doctors weren’t the only ones proclaiming the merits of various cigarette brands. A number of Christmas-themed ads, such as the above image, feature Santa. You can read more about Jackler’s work and collection in this archived Stanford Medicine article.
Previously: What’s being done about the way tobacco companies market and manufacture products, Stanford chair of otolaryngology discusses federal court’s ruling on graphic cigarette labels, Hey doc, got a light? Research highlights Big Tobacco’s long history with the medical community and NPR’s Picture Show highlights Stanford collection of cigarette ads
Cancer, Dermatology, Image of the Week
on December 16th, 2012
This young football fan is rockin’ a SUNSPORT tattoo (the temporary kind) during a sun-drenched November afternoon at Stanford Stadium. The 27-23 victory over Oregon State was one of seven straight wins on the Cardinal’s dramatic run to the Rose Bowl.
SUNSPORT is a new education and research program to improve sun-protection knowledge and habits among Stanford student-athletes – as well as outdoor athletes and fans of all ages. The SUNSPORT logo tattoo delivers a message: “I’ve got my sunscreen on. Do you?”
A partnership among the Stanford Cancer Institute, the medical school’s Department of Dermatology, Stanford Athletics, and Stanford Hospital & Clinics, SUNSPORT is establishing the most comprehensive sun protection outreach and research program of any university in the country. SUNSPORT research focuses on surveying Stanford’s outdoor athletes to identify attitudes and sun-protection practices in this high-risk population, and program dermatologists also work closely with athletes, coaches and athletic trainers to improve sun safety behaviors.
Going to the Rose Bowl? Post your photos wearing the SUNSPORT logo on the Stanford SUNSPORT Facebook page. Tattoos are available by e-mailing a request with your mailing address to email@example.com.
Photo by Kristin Nord/Stanford Department of Dermatology