Bioethics Blogs

Snapshots of Life: Bring on the Confetti!

Credit: Heinz Baumann, Sean T. Glenn, Mary Kay Ellsworth, and Kenneth W. Gross, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

If this explosion of color reminds you of confetti, you’re not alone—scientists think it does too. In fact, they’ve even given the name “Confetti mouse” to a strain of mice genetically engineered so that their cells glow in various combinations of red, blue, yellow, or green markers, depending on what particular proteins those cells are producing. This color coding, demonstrated here in mouse kidney cells, can be especially useful in cancer research, shedding light on subtle molecular differences among tumors and providing clues to what may be driving the spread, or metastasis, of cancer cells beyond the original tumor site.

Not only is the Confetti mouse a valuable scientific tool, this image recently earned Heinz Baumann and colleagues at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY, a place of honor in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2015 Bioart competition. Working in the NIH-funded lab of Kenneth Gross, Baumann’s team created a Confetti mouse system that enables them to manipulate and explore in exquisite detail the expression of proteins in renal pericytes, a type of cell associated with the blood filtration system in the kidney.

The team’s aim to use this colorful tool to learn more about the development and regeneration of kidneys, as well as to improve understanding of the development and spread of deadly neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas. As beautiful as Confetti data may be, the true masterpiece will be when this and other fundamental knowledge can be translated into new treatments and cures for people suffering from kidney disease and cancer.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.