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The Placenta Rainbow

Suchita Nadkarni, William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London

The Placenta Rainbow highlights differences in mouse placental development that can result from manipulation of the mother’s immune system. These placentas were investigated at day 12 of the 20-day gestation period – the point at which a mouse’s placenta has gained its characteristic shape but is still developing.

These placentas are from mice with genetically different immune systems, and have been stained for three proteins. Blue represents the nucleus, where DNA is stored and controlled; blood vessels are stained in red; and trophoblasts, the first cells to form in the developing embryo, are stained in green. Additional colours are present due to an expression of two or more of these proteins in the same cell. The range of colours indicates the significant effects that differences in a mother’s immune system can have on placental development. Such techniques could help us understand and identify ways to treat complications that arise during human pregnancies.

The width of the image is approximately 15 mm. The width of the image is approximately 15 mm.

Imaging technique: Confocal microscopy

A type of light microscopy that uses visible light (usually in the form of one or more lasers) to illuminate part of the object being viewed. Out-of-focus light above and below the point of focus is filtered out and eliminated from the final image. Thin optical slices through an object can be stacked on top of one another to produce a digital 3D reconstruction.

Location where image was created

London, UK

Image creator

Suchita’s interest in science began in high school, and she became fascinated by the immune system during her studies. This has led to her now researching immune system interactions during vascular development at Queen Mary University of London. Suchita is an avid fan of cooking and of reading crime novels set in the Victorian era. She lives in London with her husband, daughter, and cat called Molly. Find out more.

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