Now in our 13th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Search the archive of over 4000 images

In the Stars

Protein called CD49f identifies astrocytes allowing study of their potential role in brain disease

09 July 2020

In the Stars

To function properly, neurons need the help of supporting glial cells, including the star-shaped astrocytes (pictured), which generally maintain the right environment for neural signalling. More than just support staff, growing evidence suggests that astrocytes also play a role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, so understanding how they work and why they malfunction is critical. Researchers recently found a new way to identify astrocytes in cell cultures derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), making it easier to study human astrocytes in the laboratory. They isolated astrocytes by targeting a novel cell surface marker, CD49f, then demonstrated that these cultured cells can carry out typical astrocyte functions, including stimulating neurons. Most importantly, these hiPSC-derived astrocytes became dysfunctional and even toxic to neurons when exposed to signals of inflammation, offering new insights into how astrocytes might be involved in neurodegenerative diseases, and new opportunities to explore this problem.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

Follow on Tumblr

Follow on Instagram

What is BPoD?

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.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at with translations by the University of Valencia.