WCMR Image Competition

Last month we reached out to our dedicated @MitoResearch Facebook followers and asked them to help us by choosing their favourite image from a collection kindly provided by members of our Newcastle Mito Team. We had a fantastic response and are delighted to announce that our winner is Dr Valeria Di Leo who shared the beautiful image below of 3D muscle generated in the laboratory. Congratulations to Valeria, who tells us more here!

The image is showing a three-dimensional (3D) muscle sample generated in the laboratory using skeletal muscle cells derived from a patient with mitochondrial myopathy (muscle weakness) carrying a genetic change in the TWNK gene. I generated this 3D muscle sample in collaboration with the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia in Barcelona during a laboratory exchange opportunity funded by an EMBO Scientific Exchange Grant and the Newcastle Wellcome Trust Translational Research Partnership.

Dr Valeria Di Leo with Prof Javier Ramón Azcón and team from the Biosensors for Bioengineering research group at IBEC.

To begin, I grew the patient cells in the laboratory to expand the number up to ~25 million. I transferred the cells to an ‘organ-on-a-chip’ culture device to create a functional contracting muscle. The muscle was then labelled with fluorescent molecules that highlight the detailed structure and the image captured with an innovative microscope called DragonFly.

In the image you can see elongated skeletal muscle fibres (red and green), which are the fundamental units found within this type of tissue, and the nuclei which have been stained blue. When both the red and green signals merge it produces yellow, suggesting that the fibres express the specific characteristics of skeletal muscle cells. In this case, not all the fibres are yellow in colour, which may be because the cells were derived from a patient with mitochondrial disease and requires further study. This approach of generating 3D muscle in the laboratory will help us investigate the mechanisms driving mitochondrial myopathy in a highly relevant research model and, ultimately find therapies for patients living with mitochondrial disease.

Congratulations to Valeria and a huge thank you to everyone who got involved through Facebook and helped us select our winner! We would also like to thank all members of our Newcastle Mito Team who provided the amazing images shown below that capture the breadth of mitochondrial research we do across our Centre aimed at transforming the lives of those with mitochondrial disease and dysfunction. Without this research, there will never be hope for a cure but together we will find one.