Most cells have one nucleus – the home of the genetic material – but the cells pictured have been induced to fuse their outer membranes such that they now have multiple nuclei (the roundish coloured blobs that have grouped together into flower-like clusters). Muscle cells are one of the few types of naturally multi-nucleated cells and they form by the fusion of muscle stem cells. Scientists are hoping to boost muscle stem cell fusion so as to promote muscle regeneration in patients with muscle disorders, but the factors that drive cell fusion are largely unknown. Now, scientists have discovered such a factor – a protein, they call myomerger. Indeed, myomerger is responsible for the pretty cell fusions pictured. It’s possible, then, that myomerger, will not only help scientists learn more about the process of cell fusion, but also be used in the future to therapeutically rebuild muscle in patients that need it.
Written by Ruth Williams
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.