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Freshly Squeezed

Lab-grown network of blood vessels allows cell passage to be mimicked

21 February 2020

Freshly Squeezed

Our blood – a mixture of blood cells, fluid, nutrients and waste – gathers speed as it flows towards our tissues and organs, where wide arteries narrow to thin arterioles, and pressure ramps up. Eventually the blood is forced across a bed of even thinner capillaries, sprinkling the surrounding tissues with fluid and nutrients as it flows to the other side. Experiments in these artificial capillaries, grown in a lab from human cells (stained purple with blue nuclei), mimic how red blood cells flowing in from narrowing arterioles (top) must squeeze and contort to fit through the capillaries (middle) before popping out at widening venules (bottom). Malaria parasites prevent blood cells from squashing up – often leading to life-threatening blockages known as microcirculatory obstruction, also common in sickle cell anaemia. Using these lab grown tools, scientists plan to test new therapies to treat these conditions and allow blood cells to carry on their way.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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