Leicester scientist recognised in national image competition

The glue that holds your life together. Credit: Dr Liam Musto, University of Leicester, British Heart Foundation - Reflections of Research

A scientist from the University of Leicester has been shortlisted for the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) annual ‘Reflections of Research’ image competition.

The competition challenges BHF-funded scientists to put forward the most awe-inspiring image taken as part of their research into cardiovascular health and disease. Each offers a stunning insight into their crucial work.

‘The glue that holds your life together’ was submitted by BHF-funded researcher Dr Liam Musto. What looks like a tangled vine branch is in fact a fibre of collagen, a protein that acts like glue in the wall of blood vessels, giving them enough strength to withstand the high pressure of blood as it is pumped around the body. 

This picture above is of the inside of the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the human body, taken at 8000x magnification using an electron microscope, one of the most powerful microscopes available. The magnification is necessary to study the miniscule individual fibres of collagen within the walls of blood vessels. It is here that the processes that lead to aneurysms occur. 

An aneurysm is a swelling or bulging in part of a blood vessel. If this grows large enough, it can lead to the blood vessel bursting and internal bleeding. Ruptures of the aorta are responsible for over 4,000 deaths a year in the UK. The team at the University of Leicester hope to find ways of preventing this by studying how collagen differs in different areas of the aorta wall.

Dr Liam Musto said: “It’s very exciting to be shortlisted for the BHF’s image competition and to be able to share this eye-catching side of our research.  

“By using powerful microscopes and AI-based computer programmes, we are revealing more than ever before about the structure and strength of the body’s largest blood vessel. We hope that the information we gather can help us develop new ways to maintain the aorta’s remarkable resilience.”