The Niche stem cell picture contest winners: gut & astrocytes

I got some great entries for our The Niche stem cell picture contest. While I expected many bright colorful images, every year some of the pictures surprise me in certain ways.

There was another surprise in that two entrants in the contest, both Assistant Professors, are sisters. A talented family! You can see the previous stem cell picture contest winner. I hold these picture contests about every other year.

First place goes to Amy Engevick for her gut stem cell picture

One of the sisters, Amy Engevick, is our first-place winner with her image below. The picture is of a stained section of intestine, highlighting both stem cells and immune cells. As the winner, Amy receives a $100 prize.

I found the image to be kind of mesmerizing. It’s like science and art colliding.

In teaching the histology class here at UC Davis School of Medicine, including histology of the gut ,we often see villi “floating” in H&E stained images. Here in Amy’s image you can see the same effect, but with the immunofluorescence staining. It looks that way because the villi curve and taper so any given section only catches parts of each villus. They do all attach to the wall of the tissue.

I asked Amy for more specifics on her staining to make this image:

“I stained for phosphorylated ezrin-radixin-moesin (which labels the linker of the plasma membrane with the underlying cytoskeleton found in the apical membrane of intestinal cells) in teal. I used ki67 as the proliferative marker of intestinal stem cells in white. I also used F4/80 for immune cells. The staining was pseudo colored in zen (Zeiss’ software) using the custom LUT Gold. I took the images using a Zeiss Axio imager.”

The gold pseudo-coloring gives an interesting highlight to the image.

amy the niche stem cell picture contest
The micrograph depicts stem cells in white (which reside at the base of the villi (the crypt) in the intestine), the apical brush border in teal/light blue, nuclei in yellow/gold and immune cells in purple. Amy Engevick, PhD, Assistant Professor, Regenerative Medicine & Cell Biology, Medical University of South Carolina.

Second place goes to Phi Nguyen

The second place winner is UCSF graduate student Phi Nguyen.

While I tend to be drawn to colorful IF images, his black-and-white image (below) of “embryonic progenitors are differentiating into astrocytes” is very striking. It almost feels like it’s a 3D image. Phi’s prize is a bundle of stem cell swag including a stem cell t-shirt and signed copies of my three books.

phi nguyen stem cell picture
“Astrocytes are star-shaped brain cells that fine-tune neuronal circuits and cognitive function. Here, a bed of embryonic progenitors are differentiating into astrocytes stained with GFAP (grey). Taken using an LSM 800 confocal microscope of an in vitro preparation and processed in ImageJ.” Phi Nguyen.

Some additional striking stem cell picture contest entries

Mindy Engevik
The image shows the cell junction marker p120 in purple and the proliferation marker ki67 in white, with the nuclei denoted in blue. Mindy Engevik, Assistant Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina.
ctermini image 4
Image of the hematopoietic stem cell bone marrow niche after radiation exposure or stem cell transplant. Christina Termini, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, The University of California, Los Angeles. Photoshop oil painting filter applied.
Subhakankha Manna PhD Student Charité Universitatsmedizin Berlin, Colon Organoid
A colon organoid, Red channel is Ecadherin, blue is DAPI. Subhakankha Manna PhD Student Charité Universitatsmedizin Berlin,

Thanks to all of those who entered.

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