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Microimagery showcases life’s beauty, complexity

Caren B. Les, caren.les@photonics.com

From bat embyros to bird feathers to butterfly wings, microscopy offers a glimpse into the sometimes bizarre and often beautiful world of the teeny-tiny. Every year, microscopists around the world vie for recognition as the best and brightest in microimaging contests held by Nikon Instruments Inc. and Olympus America Inc.


Captured under a confocal microscope (203), this image of the blood-brain barrier in a live zebra fish embryo won first prize in Nikon’s 2012 Small World Photomicrography competition. Photographers: Dr. Jennifer Peters and Dr. Michael Taylor of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

The techniques they use vary and often require creative combining. One successful example: Dr. Jennifer Peters and Dr. Michael Taylor of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., used fluorescent proteins to look at zebra fish brain endothelial cells so they could watch the blood-brain barrier develop in real time. They took 3-D snapshots under a confocal microscope, then stacked the images and compressed them into one, pseudocoloring them to illustrate depth. The resulting image, which won Nikon’s 2012 Small World Photomicrography Competition, is believed to be the first-ever image of the blood-brain barrier in a live animal.


This still image is from the video that won first prize in the 2012 Olympus BioScapes competition. Using differential interference contrast microscopy, the video captured the tiny colonial rotifers, showing eyespots and corona (2003 to 5003). Photographer: Ralph Grimm of Jimboomba, Queensland, Australia.


The 2012 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition winner is not an image at all but a video, the first video ever to win the competition, demonstrating the continual evolution of microscopy and the art it produces.

To view the other prizewinning images, visit www.nikonsmallworld.com and www.olympusbioscapes.com






This photo of live newborn lynx spiderlings, which placed second in the Nikon competition, was created using reflected light, fiber optics and image stacking (63). Photographer: Walter Piorkowski, South Beloit, Ill.










Confocal microscopy zeros in on a fern (Polypodium virginianum) to show a cluster of spore-filled sporangia and specialized protective hairs called paraphyses; this was the third-prize winner in the Olympus contest. Photographer: Igor Siwanowicz, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Janelia Farm Research Campus, Ashburn, Va.




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