Muzamil Majid Khan, a postdoc in thePepperkok team at EMBL Heidelberg, studied the piece of tissue visible in this image. It shows the extracellular matrix in diseased human lungs. The extracellular matrix – a non-cellular component of tissues and organs – is a three-dimensional network of macromolecules that provides structural support for cells.
The tissue shown here is affected by fibrosis. Fibrosis can occur in many tissues within the body, typically as a result of an injury. After injury to a tissue, the proteins of the extracellular matrix can accumulate, resulting in scarring and thickening of the affected tissue. Therefore, one can describe fibrosis as an exaggerated wound-healing response.
The image was taken with a 2-photon microscope with a magnification factor of 20. This tissue is about 8 mm wide. Cyan and magenta show fibrillar collagen – the main structural protein in the extracellular matrix – which constitutes up to 35% of the body’s protein content. Grey shows elastin – a key protein of the extracellular matrix – which allows many tissues in the body to resume their shape after stretching or contracting.
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It’s almost a year since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, affecting all our lives. While the virus continues its grip on the world, scientists are understanding it better and better, increasing our knowledge about it and opening up new ways to fight it.