The microscopic 'Christmas tree' inside the human body

Rob Waugh
Although the image looks festive, it's actually a microscopic view of the human body (Image: SWNS)

It looks distinctly festive - but families will definitely not be running downstairs on Christmas day to unwrap the presents underneath it.

The 'trees' are microscopic, captured by a confocal microscope in a human intestine.

Every year the University of Bristol challenges researchers to create 'art' from their research -  one of the winning creations was this impression of the intestinal wall which has an uncanny resemblance for a number of Christmas trees.

The image was created by Alex Greenhough and Paloma Ordóñez Morán from the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

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Alex said: "The image is of cells that make up intestinal tissue. The organised crypt-villus structures in the image reminded me of Christmas trees.

"When I heard about the competition I remembered the image we had captured during our research so I quickly decorated the trees with snow and baubles using Photoshop software as a bit of fun."

Alex named it "Wnter wonderland" after the 'Wnt pathway' proteins he is studying.

The image, generated using a confocal microscope to study intestinal tissue, was one of 12 winning entries into the Art of Science Competition.

Alex works in the Cancer Research UK colorectal tumour biology laboratory at the university.

He added: "It shows that although we scientists are very serious about our research and committed to understanding cancer, we also have a sense of humour - and are normal humans beings."

There were more than entries in the competition with the 12 winning shots ranging from abstract-like images of fluorescent tissue cells to a heart-shaped cervical lymph node and an invasion of cancer cells.

Nicole Antonio, a researcher from the University’s School of Biochemistry and co-ordinator of the competition, said: "The high quality found in the images received this year highlights how scientists are not the stereotypical eccentrics in white coats, but in fact highly creative and artistic.

"The aesthetic beauty that the researchers have found within their work, taken whilst studying medical problems that affect us all, such as cancer and arthritis, is something that we hope everyone can relate to."

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