This mesmerizing photo comes from the lab of Tim M. Townes, PhD, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and depicts blood stem cells generated from skin cells. The image was taken by Erik Westin, PhD, a UAB postdoctoral fellow studying the mechanism and potential correction of bone marrow failure syndromes using stem cell and induced pluripotent stem cell models. In describing how the cells were derived, Westin said in an email:
Human skin fibroblasts were infected with a viral vector that expresses the gene OCT4. Once infected, these cells were placed in media enriched with cytokines associated with hematopoiesis. After a number of weeks, these manipulated cells generated colonies of cells that express cell surface markers found on blood cells and blood stem cells. These cells provide an attractive resource for studying the underlying mechanisms associated with hematopoiesis for our lab to study.
The original image was enhanced slightly, giving it a dream-like aesthetic.