Our most beautiful scientific images in 2017

Science is beautiful – and we take this literally. Every year,  the Best Scientific Images Contest identifies the most beautiful scientific images among the submissions of campus staff. The three winners were officially announced on November 24 2017: Matthias Richter, Gizem Inak and Julian Heuberger.

1st place: Colorful spider (Matthias Richter, lab of Anje Sporbert, MDC)

This is a tiny spider, about 2 mm long, that was imaged by a light sheet microscope for testing purposes. On the right is its abdomen (blue) and on the left its cephalothorax, or head (green). The spider’s mouth parts (red/yellow) can be seen underneath the cephalothorax, and its pedipalps (also red/yellow) can be seen on the front of the head. The bright dots spread throughout the whole image are caused by small fluorescent beads (see project description). The light seen here is fluorescent light and was produced by using laser-excited fluorescence to exploit the autofluorescence properties of the spider’s exoskeleton.

About the project

Researchers captured this image while assessing the imaging and analysis technology of a light sheet microscope (Lightsheet Z.1) at the MDC’s Advanced Light Microscopy (ALM) Core Facility, using a spider they just happened to find as a test specimen. It was embedded in agarose, along with fluorescent beads (measuring 6 μm in diameter) needed for spatially reconstructing the complete image – a process achieved by fusing data sets registered from eight different viewing angles of 45°. The size of the final data set was 25 GB.

2nd place: glia cells (Gizem Inak, lab of Alessandro Prigione, MDC)

Seen here are astrocytes (a type of glial cells) in a neuronal cell culture of Leigh syndrome patients obtained from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Glial cells, along with neurons, are an important component of the brain’s nerve tissue. The different types of cells must interact and communicate with one another so that everything functions smoothly. Immunofluorescent staining shows the proteins vimentin (green) and GFAP (rot), which are parts of the cytoskeleton and thus help to stabilize cells mechanically.

About the project

In this project, we aim to create a model of Leigh syndrome using iPS cell technology. Leigh syndrome is an early-onset, genetic multisystem disorder caused by malfunctioning mitochondria. The condition is characterized by psychomotor regression, rapidly progressing neurological symptoms, blindness, and loss of hearing as well as consciousness and respiratory disturbances. It typically results in death within a few years. We hope to find phenotypes by comparing nerves and glial cells from Leigh syndrome patients with control cell lines derived from healthy subjects.

3rd place: organoids of colon cancer (Julian Heuberger, lab of Walter Birchmeier, MDC)

This is a fluorescent microscopic image showing a three-dimensional (3D) organoid culture of a metastatic colon cancer model. The tumor cells within this culture grew into balloon-like spheroids consisting of self-renewing and rapidly dividing cells. This morphology differs from organoid cultures composed of unaltered cells that create “mini colons” complete with all specialized cells. The tumor organoids shown here were further modified to produce a red fluorescent protein and to enable certain genes to be selectively switched on and off.

About the project

Colon cancer is a common disease worldwide. Improved early detection has led to lower mortality rates, but patients with metastatic tumors still succumb to the disease. In this project, we are using an advanced 3D organoid culture as it effectively mimics the complex cell system of living organs, making it possible to investigate the efficacy of potential drugs as well as new targets for colon cancer treatment.

Further information