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BioArt 2013

Snapshots of Life: Fisheye View

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Goldfish retina

Credit: Bryan William Jones and Robert E. Marc, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

It looks like a celebration with confetti and streamers that the photographers—among the winners of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2013 BioArt Competition—captured in this image. But these dots and lines are actually cells in the retina of a goldfish. And what such images reveal may be far more than just a pretty picture.

NIH-funded researchers at the University of Utah used a set of tools called Computational Molecular Phenotyping (CMP) to take a snapshot of the amacrine cells in the retina. The retina is delicate, light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye, and its amacrine cells are involved in processing and conveying signals from the light-gathering photoreceptor cells to the brain’s visual cortex, where the image is decoded. The colors in this photograph reveal the unique metabolic chemistry, and thus the identity, of each subtype of neuron. The red, yellow, and orange cells are amacrine neurons with a high level of the amino acid glycine; the blue ones have a lot of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The green color tells us something different: it provides a physiological snapshot revealing which neurons were active and talking to each other at the time the image was created.


Snapshots of Life: Sore Throat as Art

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Scanning electron micrograph of Strep A bacteria

Credit: Vincent A. Fischetti, The Rockefeller University

Most parents and kids wouldn’t consider strep throat the subject of high art. But the judges of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2013 BioArt competition think it is. In this silver-toned scanning electron micrograph, you can see hundreds of tiny spheres—bacteria called Group A streptococci—attached to a human pharyngeal (throat) cells grown in a lab dish. These bacteria are responsible for a very nasty type of pharyngeal inflammation commonly known as strep throat. Strep infections are usually treated with antibiotics; left untreated, they can lead to rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease, and even kidney disease.