Brain and Body

See the 20 Best Medical Science Images of the Year

March 9, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

An allergic reaction to Henna
Photo credit: Nicola Kelley, Cardiff and Vale University Hospital NHS Trust

The Wellcome Awards release their favorites.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the case of these fabulous science images, that is certainly the case. Science can sometimes seem impenetrable or dry, but these images show the beauty of scientific fields.

Every year, the Wellcome Trust celebrates “science, medicine and art,” and selects the 20 best images in their collection to showcase the beauty of biomedical art. Exhibitions featuring the photos will open in the coming months in the UK, Europe and Africa.

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In a press release, BBC Medical Correspondent, Fergus Walsh, a member of the judging panel and the presenter of this year’s award said:

“The Wellcome Image Awards consistently uncover a stunning range of images that not only capture the imagination but help bring complex concepts to life. From otherworldly pictures to intricate close ups, these spectacular images draw you in and tell important stories about medical research today.”

Adult cow heart

Cow Heart. Credit: Michael Frank, Royal Veterinary College.

This first image is a photograph of an adult cow heart. It showcases the different parts of the organ and the route taken by bloodflow.


Nerve fibers in the brain

Wiring the human brain. Credit: Alfred Anwander; MPI-CBS

This is an image of nerve fibers in the brain of a healthy young adult. It was created using data from an MRI scan.


Micrograph of maize leaf

Maize Leaves. Credit: Fernán Federici, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and University of Cambridge

This image shows inside a cluster of maize leaves. Each leaf is made up of many cells and the orange circles are cell nuclei.


Close up of a swallowtail butterfly

Swallowtail butterfly. Credit: Daniel Saftner; Macroscopic Solutions

This is the head of a Swallowtail butterfly, and the entire image is only about 3/16 inch (5 millimeters) wide.


An allergic reaction to Henna

Black Henna Allergy. Credit: Nicola Kelley, Cardiff and Vale University Hospital NHS Trust

This photograph shows blistering due to an allergic reaction to para-phenylenediamine in henna.


Illustration of ebola virus

Ebola Virus. Credit: David S. Goodsell, RCSB Data Bank

This image is the only illustration among the winners. It was done with watercolors and ink and shows a cross section of an ebola virus particle.


Human stem cell

Hyman Stem Cell. Credit: David S. Goodsell, RCSB Protein Data Bank

A single human stem cell is shown in this image. It was obtained with a cryogenic scanning electron micrograph.


Toxoplasma gondii

Toxoplasmosis-causing Parasites, Credit: Leandro Lemgruber, University of Glasgow

This picture was taken using structured-illumination microscopy, a type of super-resolution microscopy, and shows Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.

"It looks quite blurry because of the extreme magnification of this tiny parasite which causes toxoplasmosis," said judge Robin Lovell-Badge to the BBC.


Dividing stem cell in the brain

Dividing Stem Cell in the Brain. Credit: Paula Alexandre, UCL

This image is a 9-hour time lapse of asymmetric cell division in the brain of a live zebrafish embryo. Zebrafish embryos are particularly neat to photograph because they are transparent.

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Bacteria on graphene oxide

Bacteria on Graphene Oxide. Credit:Izzat Suffian, Kuo-Ching Mei, Houmam Kafa & Khuloud T. Al-Jamal

This image shows two bacteria sitting on a sheet of graphene. Graphene is only one carbon atom thick and is one of the thinnest and strongest materials in the world.

Stages of bone development

Bone Development. Credit: Frank Acquaah

These circles show historical bones from the skeletons of children from the 19th century. They reveal how the inside of bones change as infants grow into children. The ages shown here range from 3 months prior to birth to 2.5 years.


3D image of the back of a human eye

Inside the Human Eye. Credit: Peter Maloca, University of Basel

This image is a 3D picture of the inside of the back of a human eye. Doctors use this type of image to help spot early signs of disease.


Infectious disease containment unit

Infectious Disease Containment Unit. Credit: David Bishop, Royal Free Hospital, London

This image shows a containment tent surrounding a bed at the Royal Free Hospital in London. This type of tent is used for patients with highly contagious diseases in order to prevent their diseases from being spread.


Premature Baby Receiving Light Therapy. Credit: David Bishop, Royal Free Hospital London

This image shows a newborn baby being treated with light therapy for jaundice. It was taken at the Starlight Neonatal Unit at Barnet Hospital in London.


Human liver tissue

Engineering Human Liver Tissue, Credit: Chelsea Fortin, Kelly Stevens and Sangeeta Bhatia, Koch Institute, MIT

This image shows a small piece of human liver that has been transplanted into a mouse with a damaged liver. Researchers hope that this technique could be used someday to help people with damaged livers.


Moth scales

Moth Scales. Credit: Mark R Smith, Macroscopic Solutions

This is a close-up picture of the scales on a Madagascan sunset moth. According to information provided by the Wellcome Award team, “As the wings move, they shimmer in the light and change colour, but these colours are an illusion. They come  from light bouncing off the curved scales at different angles. The wings themselves hardly contain any colour pigment or dye.”


Infrared image of healthy hand versus hand with Raynaud's disease

Raynaud’s Disease. Credit: Matthew Clavey, Thermal Vision Research

People with Raynaud’s disease have very cold hands and feet. This image contrasts the hand of someone with Raynaud’s disease with a healthy person’s hand.


Clathrin cage

Clathrin Cage. Credit: Maria Voigt, RCSB Protein Data Bank

This image shows clathrin, a protein found in cells that forms basket- or cage-like structures.  According to a press release, “When the cage is not being used it breaks up into smaller pieces, which get recycled. The cage can be put back together again when it's next needed.”


Scan of a blocked blood vessel causing a stroke

Detecting Stroke. Credit: Nicholas Evans, University of Cambridge

This image shows a scan with a highlighted blocked blood vessel. When vessels that carry blood to the brain get blocked, they can cause a stroke.


Blood vessels in the eye

Blood Vessels in the Eye. Credit: Kim Baxter, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The lines shown in this image are blood vessels inside a human eye that supply blood to the retina. Fluorescent dye was injected into the person’s arm and traveled through the veins up to the eye.

Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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