Finalist

Cardiac fibroblasts exalting their deity



Submitted by: Michael Mkrtschjan

Program: Bioengineering

Division: Engineering, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences

Within my research, I study the effects of microstructures on cell physiology. These “microrods” have been shown to attenuate cardiac fibrosis in mice that have undergone a myocardial infarction. Effectively, they change the way fibroblasts deposit collagen into the environment. In this image, I show cardiac fibroblasts interacting directly with a newly designed microrod made from hyaluronic acid, a common component of our extracellular matrix. The red hue is the cell’s actin cytoskeleton, green is a focal adhesion component called paxillin, and blue represents the nucleus of the cell. The pale cyan hue is attained from auto-fluorescence of the microrod.

I named this image based on the particular attention that the fibroblasts pay to the microrod. Their concentrated focal adhesions to the rod provide strong anchorage, suggesting an affinity for the microstructure. In a way, it reminds me of the way the Israelites would carry along the Ark of the Covenant. Here, the cardiac fibroblasts exalt their deity—the crafted microrod—as they traverse the desert of the 35 mm culture dish.