25 June 2024

What am I looking at? A Conundrum in Coral


 What am I looking at? A Conundrum in Coral

The images created during the daily scientific and medical endeavours at the Champalimaud Foundation can be as beautiful and compelling as any work of art. To the untrained eye, these images might also appear baffling, but, if you know what you’re looking at, they may just reveal information that can spark discoveries, contribute to the improvement of patient quality of life and maybe even alter our understanding of reality.

Through a combination of images, sound and text, each edition of this series asks Champalimaud Foundation researchers and clinicians to consider images from their own work, decoding these complex visuals and deepening our understanding of their work through this simple question: “What am I looking at?”

The penultimate ‘What am I looking at?’ of this series is a kaleidoscopic coral creation from the Cancer Dormancy & Immunity Lab. These images are helping researchers to uncover new ways to target cancer cells at the earliest possible point, but what exactly is going on in this image?

What at first sight might appear as coral polyps on the ocean floor is, in fact, a microscopic view of liver tissue, in no less need of protection—not from the impact of climate change, but from the danger of dormant cancer cells. 

While bears and bats are the most well-known hibernators, cancer, too, can enter a state of dormancy. This image has been specially stained to uncover these quiescent cancer cells, shining a torch into their cave. The blue dots are the nuclei of healthy cells, and the white lines are tiny blood vessels that branch from larger ones, depicted by black circles. Marked in green are breast cancer cells that have journeyed to the liver and now wait in silent repose, neither growing nor spreading.

There they may slumber for many years before potentially reawakening to become new life-threatening tumours. Understanding what stirs these cells, and how we can effectively target them, could prevent many cancers from seeing the light of day.

Original Idea: John Lee
Concept Development & Curation: António Monteiro, Carla Emilie Pereira, Catarina Ramos, Diana Cadete, Hedi Young, João Van Zelst, John Lee, Marta Correia and Teresa Fernandes
Source (Text & Image): Cancer Dormancy & Immunity Lab
Script: Hedi Young and John Lee
Design: Carla Emilie Pereira
Narration: Hedi Young and Marta Correia
Sound: João Van Zelst
Translation: Catarina Ramos
Dissemination: Diana Cadete
What am I looking at? A Conundrum in Coral
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