A small, small world:Each year Nikon solicits entries from thousands of scientists who use cameras and light microscopes to capture images of phenomena invisible to the naked eye. This year's winner, announced October 13, is Jonas G. King, a Ph.D. candidate in biological sciences at Vanderbilt University. King and his lab's principal investigator, Julián F. Hillyer, study the circulatory system of mosquitoes as it relates to malaria. [Also see “Halting the World's Most Lethal Parasite,” on page 68.] Their winning picture is of a mosquito heart, a two-millimeter-long tube, part of which is visible in the center of this micrograph.
To capture the image, King and Hillyer sliced through the abdomen of Anopheles gambiae, the most important carrier of malaria. (The parasite becomes infective to humans as it travels from a mosquito's midgut to its salivary glands.) The team unfolded the abdomen's outer walls, scooped out the internal organs but left the heart in place. They then stained the tissue using fluorescent dyes. The green in the photo reveals the heart musculature; the blue shows the cell nuclei. The image helps scientists see how mosquitoes pump blood and, by extension, the malaria parasite through their bodies.
This article was originally published with the title "What is it?" in Scientific American 303, 5, 33 (November 2010)
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Anna Kuchment is a contributing editor at Scientific American and a staff science reporter at the Dallas Morning News. She is also co-author of a forthcoming book about earthquakes triggered by energy production. Follow Anna Kuchment on Twitter Credit: Nick Higgins