Friday, February 3, 2012

Beautiful pictures of the cellular world

Every year, GE Healthcare is hosting a competition for the most beautiful pictures made of the microscopic world. While it is basically an advertisement for their image analysis products, the submissions provide a stunning look into the world of cells, that normally is invisible to us, or looks rather dull when we look through the microscopes ourselves.

The pictures found below consist of a lot of different colours. The trick is to stain individual molecules with a specific colour, which can be done with so-called immunofluorescence. Antibodies are small molecules that are very specific in their binding capabilities. When specific antibodies are coupled with a fluorescent dye, scientists have the option to stain proteins, lipids or other molecules. They are frequently used in research to detect presence of certain molecules, or to discern their behaviour by localising them in tissues. By creating a balanced cocktail of antibodies coupled with dyes, beautiful pictures can be created, as is visible below.
Ovarian cancer. The small spheres are cells, while the green stuff consists of a molecule that provides structure. Despite being a horrible disease, the picture is beautiful. 
Muscle cells commonly found in the walls of blood vessels or the intestines. The blue part reveals the core of the cell, while the other colours show typical muscle markers: elongated fibres that provide strength and structure.
A myoblast, which is a primitive version of a muscle cell. The green stuff gives the cell its structure. The small spheres consist of DNA wound on so-called histones, which keep it nice and tight.
Other pictures
If you liked what you saw, you may also appreciate NASA's pictures of the Sun, or a video made of the Earth. A different organisation released a video of the Moon, which is also worth having a look at. 

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