What does pain look like? How does the brain develop and grow?

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The art of science: a network of nerve cells and a neural sunrise, captured under the microscope

Neural spiderwebs – unlocking the secrets of low level laser irradiation for pain therapy

This stunning image shows a network of the nerve cells which carry sensory information from the world to your spinal cord and brain.

MLovelace NHMRC Science to Art

A fluorescent dye highlights the fine nerve fibres, which reach out to carry signals from one nerve cell to the next.

Observing how nerve cells in cultures respond to laser irradiation shows us how the laser acts on the cells.

This can help us understand how low level laser therapy–treatment, shown to be effective in clinical trials, can relieve some forms of chronic and acute pain.

Read more about this work at: http://sydney.edu.au/bmri/research/chronic-acute-pain-studies/index.php

The dawn of neurodevelopment – the migratory journey of neural precursors

Like a spectacular dawn, this image captures the dynamic development of brain cells, with their complex shapes and structures.

The blue ‘sun’ surrounded by radiating golden cells is a neurosphere, a spherical ball of cells used to model brain development: how cells multiply, move and grow.

MLovelace Entry_Eureka

Under the microscope, we can see immature nerve cells move out of the sphere and onto the glass, where they can differentiate into the various types of brain cells – with the correct stimulus. This allows scientists to model these critical processes in culture.

Read more about this work at: http://sydney.edu.au/medicine/anatomy/research/labs/retinal/

Both images were captured on a Zeiss Meta confocal laser scanning microscope at the Bosch Institute Advanced Microscopy Facility, University of Sydney.

To speak to the photographer, or request print quality image files, contact:

About the photographer – Dr Michael Lovelace, microscopist at the Centenary Institute

It’s been a big year for Michael Lovelace, a scientist who clearly has an eye for art. Imaging is central to medical research, and Michael’s images are not only scientifically important, but aesthetically powerful.

His ‘neural spiderwebs’ micrograph won the 2013 biennial NHMRC Science to Art Award and his ‘dawn of neurodevelopment’ was selected as one of the top ten images in the 2013 Australian Museum New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography. It is now on display at Questacon, Canberra in the Small Objects, Big Impact Regenerative Medicine exhibition.

Dr Lovelace is now a research officer in the Centenary’s Institute’s Vascular Biology Laboratory headed by Professor Jennifer Gamble, where he is using advanced microscopy techniques to examine the localisation of the protein SENEX, a protein important in the ageing of the endothelial cell lining of blood vessels.

 

Background information

Neural spiderwebs – unlocking the secrets of laser irradiation for pain therapy

Winner: 2013 NHMRC Science to Art prize

Laser therapy is currently used to treat chronic pain in patients worldwide. This nerve cell culture study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to elucidate the cellular mechanisms involved in the response of nerve cells to low level laser irradiation.

This image depicts cultured nerve cells and their associated Schwann cells. The cells were labelled so we could observe the fine nerve fibres, which form the ‘neural spiderweb’ of connections between cells. A series of separate experiments investigated changes in mitochondrial membrane potential and the electrophysiological changes in nerve conduction.

Collectively, these experiments demonstrated the effect of the low level laser treatment and its reversible effect in blocking nerve conduction. In this research, Michael worked with Professor Patricia Armati and Dr Roberta Chow at the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Research Institute.

Read more about the science at: http://sydney.edu.au/bmri/research/chronic-acute-pain-studies/index.php

About the National Health and Medical Research Council

The NHMRC is the peak funding body for health and medical research in Australia. This research was funded by NHMRC project grants #1005730 to Prof. Tailoi Chan-Ling and #5126787 to Prof. Patricia Armati. Prof. Chan-Ling was also funded by a NHMRC Principal Research Fellowship #571100. The contents of this press release are the responsibility of the authors, and do not reflect the views of the NHMRC.

Read more about the NHMRC at: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/

About the NHMRC Science to Art Award

The NHMRC Science to Art prize recognises outstanding examples of the art and science that results from research funded by NHMRC – Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council.

More at: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/media/events/nhmrc-science-art-award/nhmrc-science-art-award-2013

The dawn of neurodevelopment – the migratory journey of neural precursors

Highly Commended: 2013 New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography

Like a spectacular dawn, this image of migrating nervous system cells illustrates the complexity of morphologies and markers expressed on immature cells using an adherent neurosphere model.

Neurospheres are spherical balls of cells that are used by scientists to model the processes involved in neurodevelopment, such as proliferation, migration and differentiation. When adhered to substrate-coated glass, this promotes the migration of immature cells out of the sphere and onto the glass, where they can differentiate into neurons, astrocytes or oligodendrocytes if supplied with the correct stimulus.

This micrograph was taken using a confocal microscope, with a final magnification of 100x, and came from work performed in Dr Lovelace’s former laboratory in the Department of Anatomy, University of Sydney, with supervisor Prof. Tailoi Chan-Ling.

Read more about the science at: http://sydney.edu.au/medicine/anatomy/research/labs/retinal/

About the New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography

Presented annually by the Australian Museum, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes reward excellence in the fields of research & innovation, leadership & commercialisation, school science and science journalism & communication. The photography prize is a stunning display of shape and colour representing the best in science photography.

Read more about the award at: http://australianmuseum.net.au/2013-Eureka-Prize-for-Science-Photography

About the Small Objects, Big Impact Regenerative Medicine Image Competition

This exhibition, curated by the Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research (ASSCR) and on show now at Questacon in Canberra, celebrates the beauty in regenerative medicine research. The images include drawings, patient portraits and research images, which help patients communicate the difficulties they face dealing with disease, or assess the merits of emerging stem cell or regenerative medicine treatments.

Read more about the ASSCR at: http://www.asscr.org/