Image made at NKI wins cover art contest

4 Mar 2021 16:57

The immune cell shown on this cover of renowned journal Blood was captured by Hans Janssen from the Netherlands Cancer Institute. It won the Blood Cover Art contest 2020 and provided insight into why some kids suffer from a deficient immune system.

For her research on immune cells, Sanquin’s researcher Evelien Sprenkeler decided to ask Hans Janssen to assist with the high magnification microscopy. “I’ve been working with Sanquin’s research groups for many years now. They come to me whenever their questions need images with a high magnification in order to get answers.”

Abnormal and immobile

He captured the immune cells (neutrophils) of two children with an extremely rare mutation, in the MKL1 gene (cover image). These children suffer from a malfunctioning immune system. The mutation turns out to affect the protein actin, rendering the children’s cells less mobile and bad at leaving the blood stream to go fight infections. Janssen’s images show that the distribution of actin is really quite abnormal in these kids’ cells: they contain far less of this protein. A comparison between a patient’s cell and a healthy kid’s cell clearly shows this (see image). Among other evidence, the publication by Sprenkeler, Janssen and colleagues also contains short microscopic video’s showing how immobile the affected immune cells are.

A healthy kid’s immune cell (left) versus a MKL1-mutated kids cell (right). The little black dots represent actin.

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