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3D imaging of the vessels of the skull at single-cell resolution

30 November 2021

Cracking Skulls

Our skulls are shaped in the womb and continue growing after birth, yet the behaviour of bone-building cells called skeletal progenitors still has scientists scratching their heads. Here researchers scan a mouse’s cavarium – the top part of its skull – using 3D light-sheet microscopy to highlight the tissue patterns inside. Web-like arteries (highlighted in green), channel blood towards capillaries, sprinkler-like pores which nourish the surrounding cells with fluid and nutrients – some of these (shown in red) are nurturing nearby skeletal progenitor cells (grey). Teasing apart the tangle of different types of craniofacial vessel using computer algorithms (at the end of the video), allows researchers to examine how their patterns change over time – as the skull develops, or after injury – giving insights into human developmental conditions such as micrognathism.

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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