Prehistoric Pottery Photoset 2, The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Cardiovascular diseases, conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, are the leading cause of death worldwide. Most commonly, these problems are linked to atherosclerosis, the build-up of fatty compounds, collectively known as plaque, in the walls of arteries. Fat molecules, or lipids, in these deposits are linked to a protein named apolipoprotein-B (ApoB), which may be key to understanding how and why harmful plaque forms. Researchers recently developed a technique to monitor the levels and distribution of ApoB-containing lipid complexes, or lipoproteins, in transparent zebrafish larvae, by fusing ApoB to a luciferase enzyme, closely related to that responsible for light production in fireflies. In the developing larvae, pictured from one (top) to five days after fertilisation (bottom), the bright blue glow reveals where and when lipoproteins are most abundant. Operating in a versatile model organism, this technique could unlock new ways of investigating plaque formation and facilitate drug testing.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat