Now in its fourth year, the Image of Research Photography Competition continues to draw students, faculty and staff from across the institution.
“The annual competition allows scientists to merge art and science and look at the exciting research happening on campus through different lenses,” said vice president for research, Andrea Giuffrida, Ph.D.
The 2021 winners:
1st place: Raksha Parthasarathy, PhD Candidate, Integrated Biomedical Sciences Program, Molecular Immunology & Microbiology
The human body fights pathogens every day, every second. We have a built-in system, ready with loaded artillery to wage wars against these pathogens. This is your immune system. A major fort in this “inside” army is the spleen. The spleen is a lymphoid organ constantly surveying the blood that flows through it for pathogens and foreign objects. The spleen has a plethora of cells similar to soldiers that work together to fight off diseases. Macrophages and monocytes wage the immediate response (innate immunity) and B cells and T cells form “immunological” memory (adaptive immunity) and prevent future attacks from the same enemy. Pictured in the image are B cell forts (Follicles; in green) surrounding T cells (in red) and the first line of defenders, the marginal zone B cells (in blue) in a section of the mouse spleen. Good vaccines elicit this immunological memory and these vaccines holds the key to fighting an infection and the pandemic.
2nd place: Raphael Reyes, PhD Candidate, Integrated Biomedical Sciences Program, Molecular Immunology & Microbiology
B cell Expressionism
The novel SARS-CoV-2 virus has led to a global pandemic. Infecting over 118 million people worldwide and causing nearly 2.6 million deaths due to COVID-19, so far. This global threat has resulted in multiple vaccines developed in record time. Years of studies trying to understand protective immune responses to pathogens has contributed to the quick and safe development of these vaccines. An important contribution is the study of antibodies and how they prevent viral infection of host cells. Antibodies can recognize proteins on the surface of the virus blocking invasion. B cells can secrete antibodies when their B cell receptor recognizes an antigen and can differentiate into memory B cells to provide protection against future infections. Therefore, the study of B cells and how they develop into memory can contribute to better vaccine strategies. Using B cells isolated from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, we track the phenotype and changes to SARS-CoV-2 specific B cells over time. The image depicts flow cytometry analysis of single B cells (represented by individual dots) and expression of CD11c (high=red, low=blue), a marker expressed by memory B cells with a yet to be defined role, from a COVID-19 convalescent donor.
3rd place: Salvador Alejo, MD/PhD Candidate, Integrated Biomedical Sciences, South Texas Medical Scientist Training Program
The Midnight Cha Cha of Life
During my time working in the Hui Zhang and Hong Sun labs at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, I was interested in studying cancer from both an epigenetics and migration standpoint. In this image, we utilize confocal microscopy to visualize cancer cells treated with growth hormone to study the cellular mechanisms that they use to move. The study of migration and invasion of cancer cells, in this case human glioblastoma astrocytoma, is highly pertinent to understanding their behavior and perhaps can elucidate an avenue for therapy and treatment. The title is a reference to the seemingly dance-like behavior that the fluorescently illuminated pairs of cells exhibit in contrast to the dark background.
Faculty/staff award: Breeanne Soteros, PhD, Postdoctoral Trainee, Neuroscience
Synapse pruning is critical for the maturation and maintenance of neural circuits. Microglia help shape circuits by engulfing synaptic connections. Here, we can see microglia processes surveilling & weaving through mossy fiber axon terminals in the hippocampus (in orange). Our research seeks to understand whether microglia also drive pathological synapse loss in psychiatric conditions. Three-dimensional reconstructions enable us to visualize synapse engulfment & characterize the role of microglia in various mouse models of neuropsychiatric diseases.
The competition was sponsored by the Offices of the Vice President for Research and Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs.