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

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

lovelaceNeural 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.

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

lovelace1Like 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.

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.

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.

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