Looking through the lens of an electron microscope will give you a glimpse of a new and practically invisible world. And it is spectacularly beautiful.
Now in its 20th year, the Wellcome Image Awards showcase the best in scientific image making – from super-resolution microscopy and medical scans to intricate illustrations.
From the mesmerising photo of a baby Hawaiian bobtail squid to the blood vessels of an African grey parrot, here are some of the winning images from this year:
The Vicissitudes of Crohn’s
This image is an illustration based around the character Stickman, a proxy or alter ego of the artist who suffers from Crohn’s disease.
Intraocular lens iris clip
This image shows how an iris clip, also known as an artificial intraocular lens, is fitted on to the eye.
An iris clip, which is fixed to the iris through a 3mm surgical incision, is used to treat conditions such as myopia (nearsightedness) and cataracts (cloudiness of the lens).
Vessels of a healthy mini-pig eye
The photo shows a 3D model of a healthy mini-pig eye. The smallest vessels seen here are 20–30 micrometres (0.02–0.03 mm) in diameter.
The other large vessels are feeder vessels for the retina – the region at the back of the eye that senses light.
Language pathways of the brain
The picture shows a 3D-printed reconstruction of the white matter pathway connecting the two regions of the brain that are involved in speech and language.
White matter connects areas of grey matter, allowing information to be transferred between distant areas of the brain.
Surface of a mouse retina
This image is a 3D reconstruction that was created by digitally stitching together over 400 images to form one large image, to show the entire surface of a mouse retina.
Blood vessels (blue) can be seen radiating from the centre of the image, supplying the entire retinal surface.
The Placenta Rainbow
The picture shows placentas taken from mice who have genetically different immune systems, highlighting how differences can affect the structure of the placenta.
Here, blue represents the nucleus – where DNA is stored and controlled, blood vessels are stained in red, and trophoblasts – the first cells to form in the developing embryo – are stained in green.
Unravelled DNA in a human lung cell
The picture shows a deformed lung cell after undergoing cell division (mitosis), where the DNA has somehow become caught and is being pulled between the two cells.
Developing spinal cord
The three-image composite shows the open end of a mouse’s neural tube (which makes up the spinal cord), with each image highlighting (in blue) one of the three main tissue types in the embryo.
Zebrafish eye and neuromasts
The image shows the lens of a four-day-old zebrafish. The red part in the centre of the image is the lens, its nervous system is shown in blue, and the neuromasts – which are surrounding structures – are shown in red.
Neuromasts form a special sensory system in fish that responds to surrounding water movements.
Cat skin and blood supply
The image is a polarised light micrograph of a section of cat skin, showing hairs, whiskers and their blood supply. The above sample is from a Victorian microscope slide.
#breastcancer Twitter connections
This image is a graphical visualisation of data extracted from tweets containing the hashtag #breastcancer. Twitter users are represented by dots, called nodes, and lines connecting the nodes represent the relationships between the Twitter users.
Nodes are sized differently – according to the number and importance of other nodes they are connected with, and the thickness of each connecting line is determined by the number of times that a particular relationship is expressed within the data.
The double-yolk structure at the top of the image indicates common mentions of two accounts.
MicroRNA scaffold cancer therapy
This image shows a structure made from a synthetic polymer that can be used to deliver short genetic sequences known as microRNAs to cancer cells where they work to shrink and suppress tumours.
The visual was captured using scanning electron microscopy – where a beam of electrons is used instead of light to reveal structures of images.
Synthetic DNA channel transporting cargo across membranes
The image is a digital illustration showing tube-like channels made of proteins in synthetic DNA controlling two-way communication between the cell and its environment.
The channel is shown in silver and substances travelling through it are shown in blue.
Hawaiian bobtail squid
This image, created using a technique known as photomacrography (where images are taken on a specialist camera and then stitched together to create one photo), shows a baby Hawaiian bobtail squid, measuring just 1.5 cm across.
Created using computed tomography and digital imaging, the photo shows the location of the blood vessels and the bones in a pigeon’s head.
Extensive blood supply just below the skin helps pigeons control its body temperature through a process known as thermoregulation.
The image shows neural stem cells grown on a synthetic gel in the lab. The stem cells are shown in magenta while the nerve fibres are shown in green.
The image is part of research to find out how making small changes to the environment can affect the way in which nerve fibres grow.
Blood vessels of the African grey parrot
The image shows a 3D reconstruction of an African grey parrot, post euthanasia.
The 3D model details a highly intricate system of blood vessels in the head and neck of the bird and was made possible through the use of a new research contrast agent called BriteVu invented by Scott Echols, one of the scientists who took the photo.