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Sometimes the most beautiful images are ones that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Take the hot pink grid of microscopic capsules or the sea of shimmering bubbles (below). Not only are they visually arresting images, but they reveal the inner workings of human physiology and bioscience on the microscopic scale.

For the 10th year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Koch Institute has featured a public gallery of bioscience images in its Cambridge, Mass., lobby. Those on display represent the winners of the institute’s annual images award. You can see them all here.


Captions were provided by the Koch Institute and have been edited and shortened for clarity.

Calling the Shots: A Flexible Platform for All-in-One Delivery
Microfabricated capsules have been modified to accommodate the co-delivery of chemotherapy with other treatment approaches, such as immunotherapy or gene therapy. The pink color comes from the red dye used as a proxy for the combination of interest. Morteza Sarmadi, Christina Ta, Robert Langer, Ana Jaklenec Koch/ Institute at MIT
Brains and Brawn: Building a Network of Neurons
Like children in gym class, young brain cells pull themselves up a rope-like fiber to form a neuronal network. Near the hollow, fluid-filled ventricle (lower left) teardrop- shaped neurons are undifferentiated, having recently split off from their mother cells. As they migrate outward toward the cortical plate, leapfrogging over one another, they mature and anchor near the pial surface (blue/green) to assume their final positions in the developing brain. Walsh Lab researchers created this architectural map to better understand how a cell’s position and lineage influence its fate. Ellen M. DeGennaro, Christopher A. Walsh/Harvard-MIT & Boston Children’s Hospital
Co-Culture Club: Using Organoids to Study How Cancer Grows
Miniature organs, known as organoids, can be used to study the events leading to tumor initiation. Cells taken from the large intestine are genetically modified to manifest common cancer-associated mutations. Seeding the engineered organoids (large white spheres) side by side with non-mutated colon organoids (blue/green) allows researchers to track and compare their growth in three dimensions. Jonathan Braverman, George Eng, Daiyao Zhang, Ömer Yilmaz/Koch Institute at MIT
A Vax Seen: Scanning Lymph Nodes for Signs of Antigen
The objects seen here are lymph nodes — organs in which immune cells learn how to respond to health threats. This imaging experiment allows researchers to “see” the amount of antigen (red=more, blue=less) that gets into each lymph node, helping identify the most effective vaccination approaches. Jacob T. Martin, Ben Cossette, Darrell Irvine/Koch Institute at MIT
Visualizing Vasculature: Uncovering Essential Proteins
Here’s a look at the vascular development of a retina: blood vessels (green) grow radially outward, guided by the underlying protein scaffold (red); at the edges, sprouting vessels receive signals from the surrounding proteins. Genevieve Abbruzzese, Jeffrey Kuhn, Thao Nguyen, Richard Hynes/ Koch Institute at MIT
20,000 Nanoleagues Under the SEM: Exploring the Power Within
A crystalline garden of zinc oxide nanoflowers grows on a polished metal plate. The anemone-like blossom near the middle forms from fragments that have fallen off the surrounding spikes, mirroring their structure in miniature. Researchers are working to shepherd the crystals into uniform fields and use the smooth conductive structures to create energy-harvesting nanowires for implantable biosensors. Paramesh Karandikar, Rameen Shakur, David Mankus, Margaret Bisher, Abigail Lytton-Jean, Robert Langer/Koch Institute at MIT
Trick or Treat: Probing Cancer’s Response to Chemotherapy
Each column in this grid represents a single cell line’s vulnerability to 21 different cancer drugs (one per row), out of more than 200 tested. Blue and green show sensitivity while red and pink show resistance — the cooler the color, the more likely a cell with that mutation is to be killed by that drug. The combined data present a series of “signatures” that the can be used to identify how drugs work and in which patients they can be most effective. Peter Bruno, Aslı Gökdemir, Ryan Hayman, Michael Hemann/Koch Institute at MIT
Cloak and Swagger: Learning From the Enemy
When an individual receives an organ transplant, his or her own immune cells may identify it as a foreign body and try to destroy it. By reprogramming donated cells to express the same surface markers as cancer cells, researchers hide transplanted cells (purple) from would-be aggressors (green) in the body. Arnav Chhabra, David Mankus, Margaret Bisher, Abigail Lytton-Jean, Sangeeta Bhatia
Microbial Multiverse: Dropping in on Diversity
Microbes attached to nutrient patches originated from the same liter of seawater, yet the patterns in which they grow vary greatly across the different micro-ecosystems. Studying the development of the diverse communities on these spherical patches will help researchers build predictive models for microbial ecology in systems ranging from the environment to human health. Rachel E. Soble, Otto X. Cordero/Parsons Laboratory at MIT

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