Stunning Images from the 2014 Olympus BioScapes International Digital Imaging Competition [Slideshow]
Microscopes find beauty in the most unexpected places
Credits: Dylan Burnette of Vanderbilt University
CANCER ON THE MOVE Some 90 percent of cancer-related deaths occur not as a result of the initial tumor itself but because cells migrate from that tumor to other parts of the body. This image of a bone cancer cell, by cell biologist Dylan Burnette of Vanderbilt University, shows the machinery that cancer cells use to spread into surrounding tissue. The cell's skeleton (
purple) pushes the cell forward with the aid of a molecule known as myosin II ( green). The cell's DNA appears in yellow. Credit: Dylan Burnette of Vanderbilt University
Cervical cancer cells from a patient named Henrietta Lacks were the first human cells to be cloned. Scientists have used these HeLa cells, as they are commonly known, extensively in biomedical research because they propagate readily in culture and are hence “immortal,” as opposed to most other human cells, which tend to die in a matter of days. Thomas Deerinck of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of California, San Diego, labeled the cells using fluorescent dye. The protein tubulin, which forms structures that are integral to cell division, appears in pink; the DNA is in blue. Credit: Thomas Deerinck of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of California, San Diego
The pesky white crusts that collect on boat hulls conceal remarkably intricate creatures, as this photograph of a barnacle's legs reveals. Neurobiologist Igor Siwanowicz of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute produced the image by removing the animal's soft tissues and staining the remaining exoskeleton with dyes that bind to a polymer known as chitin. “I was always fascinated with the diversity and versatility of crustaceans' appendages—the filter-feeding legs of barnacles are just one example of what can evolve from the common ancestral limb design,” he observes. Credit: Igor Siwanowicz of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
The rear legs of insects called plant hoppers, known for their jumping ability, contain interlocking gear wheels that synchronize the leg movements of the peppercorn-size juveniles when they leap. This mechanism, described by Malcolm Burrows of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues in 2013, is the first known example of a mechanical gear system in nature. Siwanowicz visualized the plant hopper's 0.75-millimeter-diameter gears using the same techniques he applied to the barnacle at the far left. Credit: Igor Siwanowicz of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Advertisement
The retina is a sheet of neurons lining the back of the eye that captures light from the outside world and translates it into electrical signals. In this image, produced by neuroscientist Chris Sekirnjak during his postdoctoral research at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., a guinea pig's retinal ganglion cells, which send impulses to the brain when light is detected, appear in yellow. “The vertical streaks are axon bundles, which carry information from these neurons to the brain via the optic nerve for further processing,” Sekirnjak explains. Each cell body is approximately 10 microns in diameter. Credit: Chris Sekirnjak / Salk Institute for Biological Studies
PLANT VASCULATURE A transversal section of the stem of a flowering plant of the
Ranunculus genus reveals the elaborate patterning of the plant's vasculature. Cell walls appear in red, and chloroplasts—cell structures that capture energy from the sun—are in white. Biologist Fernán Federici of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile created the image by staining the plant tissues with fluorescent dyes, exposing the sample to a trio of laser wavelengths and viewing it with a confocal microscope. Credit: Fernán Federici of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
Fossil marine plankton in a cyst phase of life was found in a drill core from hundreds of meters below the floor of the Greenland Sea. “I was impressed by the fact that after millions of years, the microscopic structure of the cyst was so well preserved,” says Stanislav Vitha of Texas A&M University, who imaged the organism. The plankton, which measures around 80 microns across, emitted the green glow when exposed to blue laser light. Credit: Stanislav Vitha of Texas A&M University
CRAB SPIDER Amateur microscopist Geir A. M. Drange captured this close-up of the crab spider
Misumena vatia, which he staged on a piece of dried maple leaf. In life, this arachnid can change color to blend in with its setting (frequently a flower of some kind)—a helpful trick for an ambush predator. Credit: Geir A.M. Drange Advertisement
JAPANESE EEL DEVELOPMENT Stained tissue highlights the maturation of the Japanese eel, which is naturally transparent as a juvenile, from hatching (
far left) through the first eight days. The head ( top) grows rapidly, with the eyes and mouth appearing to be sufficiently developed by day eight ( far right) for the young eel to begin hunting for food. By that stage, the yolk sac that provides nutrition to the baby eel has diminished correspondingly. Tora Bardal of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim produced the image. Credit: Tora Bardal of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
HOUSE CRICKET TONGUE The tip of a house cricket's tongue is incredibly elaborate, with air-filled tubes (
silver) that inflate the tongue and hoops made of the compound chitin that keep the tubes open. The exact function of this complex structure is unclear, says photographer David P. Maitland, but he “was gobsmacked by the delicate and beautiful architectural design and wanted to photograph it as if it were an exquisite sculpture.” David P. Maitland Advertisement
The year was 1665. a young english scientist named robert hooke had published a book called
Micrographia that was soon to become a best seller. The book contained Hooke's descriptions and exquisite illustrations of previously invisible details of the natural world, made using the compound microscope he invented: the jointed legs of a flea, the many-lensed eyes of a drone fly, the stellar shapes of snowflakes. Perhaps most remarkable of all were his observations of thin slices of cork (a plant material), which, his microscope revealed, were composed of a honeycomblike array of compartments. He named these structures “cells.”
Three hundred and fifty years later microscopy continues to expose the extraordinary in the mundane, deepening our understanding of the world we live in—sometimes to great aesthetic effect. In the pages that follow,
Scientific American celebrates that marriage of science and art with a selection of images from the 2014 Olympus BioScapes International Digital Imaging Competition. From the Kraken-like armor of a marine plankton dating to 37.6 million years ago to the seemingly machine-tooled gearwheels that power a young plant hopper insect's jumbo jumps, these images affirm that beauty can be found all around us—we have only to look through the right lens.
This article was originally published with the title "Living Large"
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