Emotions are how humans express responses to stimuli from all around us. Turns out our cells are not so different, except instead of emotions they produce a myriad of proteins and other biomolecules. Scientists refer to the relative expression profiles of a cell’s proteins and other biomolecules as “phenotypes,” and a cell’s phenotype can be just as complicated as a person’s emotions.
Emotions are usually caused by numerous underlying experiences or feelings that enhance or minimize each other. Cell phenotypes are very similar. The cells in our bodies are constantly reacting to stimuli, often multiple things at once. In my research, I use a technology called cellular microarrays to try to understand cell phenotypes. This technology lets me manipulate a cell’s microenvironment in precise, defined ways to determine what causes a cell’s phenotype to change. Then I take pictures of how the cells respond. In this photo, the different colors represent some different proteins expressed by liver sinusoidal endothelial cells, with red as LYVE-1, yellow as CD-31, and cell nuclei in blue. They’re all combined in the bottom right for a phenotype cell-fie. I like to pretend that my cells smile for their pictures, and sometimes they really do.