Biomedical Image Awards

Each year Wellcome Images puts its researchers to the task of finding the most amazing biomedical photography.  My favorites are always micrographs.  I’ve paired a few award winning images with the source of each image to better explain the magnification:

SEM lavender leaf.  Credit:  Wellcome Images
SEM lavender leaf. Credit: Wellcome Images
Lavender leaves.  Credit:  Mill Creek Gardens LLC
Lavender leaves. Credit: Mill Creek Gardens LLC

In the top photo a false-coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) shows a lavender leaf  imaged at 200 microns (approximately 0.0079  inches).  Lavender yields an essential oil with sweet overtones, which can be used in balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics and topical applications. It is also used to aid sleep, to relax and to alleviate anxiety. The surface of the leaf is covered with fine hair-like outgrowths made from specialized epidermal cells called non-glandular trichomes, which protect the plant against pests and reduce evaporation from the leaf. Glandular trichomes are also present, containing the oil produced by the plant.

African clawed frog eggs Credit:  Vincent Pasque/Wellcome Images
African clawed frog eggs Credit: Vincent Pasque/Wellcome Images
African clawed frog
African clawed frog

African clawed frog oocytes (immature egg cells) are shown in the top photo.  Each oocyte is surrounded by thousands of follicle cells highlighted by staining DNA blue. Blood vessels, which provide oxygen to the immature egg cells and follicle cells, are shown in red. The ovary of each adult female African clawed frog contains up to 20,000 oocytes.  At approximately 1.2 mm in diameter they are much larger than the eggs of many other species.

Micrograph of aspirin crystals.  Credit:  M.I. Walker/Wellcome Images
Micrograph of aspirin crystals. Credit: M.I. Walker/Wellcome Images
Single aspirin
Single aspirin

In the top image, crystals of aspirin, that common drug used to relieve minor aches and pains, look more like psychedelic visuals caused by a totally different kind of drug.

Bird of paradise seed. Credit:  Annie Cavanagh/Wellcome Images
Bird of paradise seed. Credit: Annie Cavanagh/Wellcome Images
Bird of Paradise flower
Bird of Paradise flower

The top photograph of a seed was taken using an electron microscope.  This strange looking seed is from a bird of paradise plant, which is native to South Africa and has a distinctive orange and blue flower, which resembles an exotic bird.

SEM of microparticle drug.  Credit:  Annie Cavanagh/Wellcome Images
SEM of microparticle drug. Credit: Annie Cavanagh/Wellcome Images
Co-polymer capsules
Co-polymer capsules

The orange and blue balls shown in the top photo represent electron microscope images of co-polymers. These are used for a drug delivery system known as particle in particle. The inner particle, shown in orange, is loaded with the drug prednisolone, used to treat inflammatory bowel disease. The outer particle, in blue, is a co-polymer which encapsulates the inner particle. Polymers can be used to coat a drug to prevent it being released in the stomach, or to produce a slow release of drug.

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