Everybody needs a support system

People's Choice
Melissa Hingorani
Neuroscience and Behavior; Psychological & Brain Sciences


Everybody needs a support system, even cells at a microscopic level. This image illustrates two types of brain cells, an astrocyte (red) and a neuron (green). Astrocytes are the most abundant cell type in the central nervous system, and essentially make it possible for neurons to function, both physically and metabolically. Here we see a representation of that support: the red astrocyte’s extensions look like arms embracing the green neuron. At the end of those extensions we see astrocytic “endfeet” which are known to contact blood vessels and fully sheath the brain vascular system.

These primary cells are cultured from the cortices of 1-2 day old rat pups. These cells are alive and motile until the moment of fixation before fluorescent antibody staining, so this image can be thought of like a candid photograph or a still from a video. We typically plate tens of thousands of cells per cell culture dish, so to see the precise contact between these two cells in such an isolated manner, almost gives the impression that these cells are sharing a special moment.