11 amazing images from high-powered microscopes


Bubonic plague bacteria, shown in yellow, appears in the digestive system (purple) of a rat flea. (B. Joseph Hinnebusch, Elizabeth Fischer and Austin Athman, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health)

Thanks to high-powered microscopes we’re able to see life in incredible detail. Here’s a sampling of some of the images that will be on display at Dulles International Airport through November thanks to Life Magnified, a project from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the American Society for Cell Biology and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s arts program. Most of the bright colors do not occur naturally. They’re the result of chemical dyes or computer programs to help scientists study structures in cells.


These are developing mouse nerve cells. The nucleus is yellow. (Torsten Wittmann, University of California, San Francisco)

A zebrafish embryo is shown 22 hours after fertilization. (Philipp Keller, Bill Lemon, Yinan Wan and Kristin Branson, Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

You’re looking at some of the 500,000 toe hairs a gecko has. These hairs — about one-tenth the thickness of a human hair — split into small hairs and help geckos climb walls and traverse ceilings. (Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.)

In this photo an immune system cell swallows an anthrax bacteria. (Camenzind G. Robinson, Sarah Guilman and Arthur Friedlander, United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases)

These cells that line a mouse’s airway have been magnified more than 10,000 times. They’re called the mucocoliary escalator, which protects against inhaled bacteria, pollutants, debris and allergens. The gray cells secrete mucus, which traps inhaled particles. The colorful cells then sweep the mucus away. (Eva Mutunga and Kate Klein, University of the District of Columbia and National Institute of Standards and Technology)

In yellow, the HIV virus attacks a human T cell, which is in blue. (Seth Pincus, Elizabeth Fischer and Austin Athman, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health)

A mouse’s fat cells are shown in red. The blood vessels are green. (Daniela Malide, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health)

Yeast offspring are released. (Juergen Berger, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, and Maria Langegger, Friedrich Miescher Laboratory of the Max Planck Society, Germany)

Say hello to the Ebola virus, which is peeling off an infected cell. (Heinz Feldmann, Peter Jahrling, Elizabeth Fischer and Anita Mora/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health)

Here’s human blood, including red blood cells, T cells (orange) and platelets (green.) (Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.)
Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland | June 6