Flicking the Switch

An amazing transformation is taking place – the cells pictured with blobs stained bright green are changing from stem cells into highly specialised brain cells called BMECs. BMECs line the tiniest blood vessels to make the blood-brain barrier, which controls the movement of molecules into and out of the brain. This layer of tightly packed cells also restricts the movement of drugs into the brain making it difficult to develop effective treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. The green glow seen here in the cells indicates that a protein signalling molecule is switching on certain genes in the nucleus. Researchers found that, within a few days, these lab-grown cells had authentic BMEC characteristics making them a useful model of the blood-brain barrier. It’s hoped that using this model will speed up the development of drugs that can breach this cellular stronghold.

Written by Sarah McLusky