cience is a deeply visual pursuit. Day in and day out researchers and clinicians rely on scans, magnifications, models, and manipulated photos to make discoveries about how living things work, and to carry those discoveries into the clinic.
In acknowledgement of science’s visual underpinnings, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Koch Institute has for the past eight years featured a
public gallery of science images in its Cambridge, Mass., lobby.
This year’s 10 winners, shown below, were chosen from a field of nearly 150 submissions from MIT researchers. They span a range of subject matters and approaches, capturing both fundamental biology and how that biology is upended by disease processes.
And, perhaps most importantly, they share those insights in an immediate way, to be appreciated by both scientists and nonscientists alike.
Captured here is a growing mouse colon tumor seen under the microscope. Yellow tags identify stem-like cells while red show sites of active cell division. Stem-like cells are especially of interest, even though they make up a minority of tumor cells, because they are the source of all other tumor cells. Therefore, researchers are interested in understanding how these cells are distributed in a tumor and how they could be targeted to treat cancer. Leah Caplan, Jatin Roper, Inbal Avraham-Davidi, Sebastian Santos, Ömer Yilmaz, Aviv Regev/
Broad Institute & Koch Institute at MIT
Each “brick” in this image is a different microscope view of tissues from mice. Close up, you can see the unique appearance and patterns found in the different organs. For example, the hair follicles here look like circular rings similar to bull’s-eyes, and in images of muscle you can see the arrangement of fibers that appear as stripes.
Lauren Zasadil, Angelika Amon/Koch Institute at MIT
This sample of the large intestine of a pig has been stained to differentiate various structures. In red are muscle fibers, while mucin — the protein in mucus — is shown in blue. Researchers developing new biomaterials to aid in tissue repair use such stains to evaluate healing at the cellular level. Kaitlyn Sadtler, Corina MacIsaac, Robert Langer, Daniel G. Anderson /Koch Institute at MIT
This image of a mouse lymph node is dotted with so-called germinal centers, highlighted in orange. Within these germinal centers, immune cells known as B cells are produced and differentiated. This image was taken to see if certain nanoparticles (blue) would home in on the germinal centers. Making vaccines that more specifically target the germinal centers could result in more effective vaccines. Jason Y.H. Chang, Tyson Moyer, Darrell Irvine/Koch Institute at MIT
This image represents a very granular look at the neurons in the brain’s memory center, the hippocampus. In green are axons, and in red, dendrites — the two ends of a neuron and the place where one neuron communicates to the next. The Lin Lab studies Npas4, a gene that regulates not only the strength and size of these connections, but also the proteins (blue) located at these synapses. Examining the relationship between structure and function as these neurons interact at the cellular and molecular level, researchers can get a better picture of how memories are made. Rodrigo Garcia, Feng-Ju (Eddie) Weng, Yingxi Lin/McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
These flower-like clusters are Toxoplasma gondii parasites multiplying inside a single human cell. Toxoplasma is one of the world’s most common parasites and is frequently transmitted via cat feces or undercooked food. The daughter cells — outlined by white within their white mother cells — will eventually grow, causing the parasites to destroy their host, before seeking out new cells to invade. Clare Harding, Sebastian Lourido/Whitehead Institute
This image is two in one. The cubes are protein crystals, seen under a microscope, that are a prototype of a “smart” insulin which can automatically sense changes in blood sugar levels and turn itself on or off to meet the body’s need. Overlaid on this image is a pattern of dark speckles — the X-ray diffraction pattern that this protein generates, which is used by scientists to understand the structure of their protein creations. Abel B. Cortinas, Kevin B. Daniel, Victor Cruz, Robert Grant, Daniel G. Anderson/Koch Institute at MIT
This image captures a moment of transition — from a ball of cells into the beginnings of an organ. These stem cells have been programmed to become laboratory-grown miniature livers, or organoids. Here they are beginning to assemble into two layers. The cells in red will develop into liver cells, blood vessels, and other cell types; those in green will transform into neurons. Allen Tseng, Ron Weiss/
Department of Biological Engineering and Koch Institute at MIT
Cancer’s metastasis is a deadly process that is often far removed from view. Here, transparent zebrafish embryos have been injected with fluorescence-labeled tumor cells, in green, to observe their spread throughout the body. The image shows some of them lodging in the brain, a frequent site of metastasis. David Benjamin, Richard Hynes
Koch Institute at MIT