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Science And Nature

Amazing Bed of Rosettes photo captures beauty of dementia research

An unbelievable view of biological research has won the Alzheimer’s Society’s new competition, with an image by Charlie Arber that presents several “blue” stem cells because they start to become “green” brain cell

Humans 17 August 2022

By Gege Li

Alzheimer's Society research - brain stem cells. Researchers like Dr Charlie Arber use stem cells - cells which don't have a?special function yet - to grow human brain cells in a dish. This can help to understand how dementia starts. This flower-like picture shows a neural rosette - a group of cells which are half way to becoming a brain cells. The green strands are cells turning into brain cells around the edges of the rosette. Copyright: Dr Charlie Arber, UCL.

Bed of Rosettes shows several blue stem cells, called a neural rosette, because they start turning out to be green brain cells.

Dr Charlie Arber, University College London

THESE astonishing images show the unexpected beauty of research into dementia, a debilitating condition that affects around 57 million people globally. They’re entrants in Spotlight on Dementia, a contest organised by the Alzheimers Society, UK.

The goal is to challenge researchers to showcase their are they explore from the impact of young-onset dementia to the potential involvement of the brains disease fighting capability in the condition.

The winning picture (above) was taken by Charlie Arber, based at University College London (UCL). His Bed of Rosettes shows several blue stem cells, called a neural rosette, because they start turning out to be green brain cells. Growing brain cells is essential for research into dementia.

Alzheimer's Society research - immune cells may be involved in Alzheimer's disease. Microglia act as our immune defense in the brain. They're really important to keeping the brain healthy, but Dr Zeinab Abidi, UCL, explores the potentially darker side to microglia - they might be involved in early steps of Alzheimer's disease and are therefore a target for treatments. Pictured here in donated brain tissue from someone with Alzheimer's disease, the repetition and uniformity of the microglia brings up images of patterned carpets seen on the Tube rather than immune cells in the brain. Copyright: Dr Zeinab Abdi, University College London.

donated microglia cells from the person with Alzheimers

Dr Zeinab Abdi, University College London

The image above by Zeinab Abdi, also at UCL, shows donated microglia cells from the person with Alzheimers. Microglia, a kind of immune cell, help to keep brains healthy, however they can also be mixed up in first stages of the condition.

In the centre can be an artistic commentary by Rachel Allen at the University of the West of Scotland on what dementia in younger people can result in them being frozen out of these careers.

Alzheimer's Society research - people with young onset dementia can be 'frozen out'. Rachel Allen, who researches young onset dementia and careers, represents the "freezing out" that people with young onset dementia can experience. Work, once enjoyable and meaningful, is now cold and harsh. Stages towards retirement can't be negotiated as planned. Her image here depicts this - but the colourful letters signify that hope and purpose can continue. Careers continue to exist after a diagnosis. Copyright: Rachel Allen, University of the West of Scotland.

artistic commentary by Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen, University of the West of Scotland

Last up can be an entry by Kirsten Williamson at the University of Southampton, UK, emphasising the resemblance of tree branches and a network of tau proteins, which malfunction in Alzheimers disease. This is a reminder, she says, of the wonder of neuroscience.

Alzheimer's Society research - Malfunctioning proteins look like branches. When Kirsten Williamson looks up through the trees towards the sky, she thinks of how small we are in the universe. The picture on the left was taken looking up within The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland, and the right taken down the microscope, looking at cells too small to conceptualise - allowing us to marvel at the wonders of the universe, both big and small. The right image shows a beautiful network of extensions of tau - a type of protein which malfunctions in Alzheimer's disease - which look very similar to the tree branches on the left. These images remind Kirsten of the beauty of neuroscience and being part of a community of scientists trying to understand the brain and how it can cause such devastating diseases. Copyright: Kirsten Williamson, University of Southampton.

Kirsten Williamson, University of Southampton

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