The stories behind the images

Leslie Caron
Leslie Caron of Genea, Australia presents a depiction of vascular smooth muscle cells differentiated from human embryonic stem cells stained for DNA (blue) and the smooth muscle markers Smoothelin (red) and Caldesmon (green).

About my research
At Genea, we are developing novel, cell-based tools to advance research and facilitate drug development for genetic diseases. This image is a representation of research that aims to understand abnormalities of the vascular system that appear in several genetic syndromes, including Facio-Scapulo-Humeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD). Little is known about the cause of this disease and no treatment is currently available.

Vascular smooth muscle cells, which typically surround blood vessels in the body, will be useful to study abnormalities of the vasculature which are observed in retinal blood vessels of FSHD patients. The properties of normal and FSHD-affected cells will be investigated, and in the future smooth muscle will be offered to researchers and biotech/pharmaceutical companies to advance drug discovery for FSHD. The aim is to identify molecules which restore a healthy phenotype in the FSHD cells - hopefully leading to the development of effective treatments for this severe disorder.

Our research is partly funded by the FSHD Global Research Foundation. We also work with academic and commercial partners and provide those cells for their specific projects.

About my image
The IN Cell Analyzer allows us to test many different conditions in a short space of time, making it easier to find the optimal conditions and develop powerful protocols. The speed at which results are acquired means that work which would have taken several weeks to achieve using traditional approaches, can be completed within one hour. In addition, the ability to set so many conditions, and test them all, removes the risk of unconsciously biasing the outcome by prioritizing conditions to test, based on what we already know.

About me
I've always enjoyed biology and understanding how the human body works, which is why I started a PhD in France in 2000. If I could work with anyone, it would be Alan Colman or Doug Melton - both of whom are leaders in the field of stem cell research.