The image shows a lesion in human cervical tissue infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV16). Early viral proteins (green) bind to and reorganize the ketatin filaments (red) toward the edge of the cell. Cell nuclei are stained blue. (NIMR- Francis Crick Institute)

What does a paramecium look like?

How about a neuron, or a glial cell?

You’ll find the answers at the Cell Image Library, an online resource that does exactly what it promises. The online archive has collected a vast number of cell images from different organisms that may amaze you.

Cells are the building blocks of life. The tiny structures are usually visible only under a microscope, but once you get a look, you can see the structures that make life possible. The human body contains about 3.72 trillion cells — more than 200 types in all. Each cell type has a different job — from the myocytes that form muscles to the neurons that make up the nervous system.

The library covers human cells and more, documenting cells in plants and other animals. And it doesn’t stop with mere images. It highlights cell components, such as the nuclei that contain genetic information, and lays bare the inner workings of cells with videos and animations. For scientists whose interest in cells goes beyond curiosity, there are also over 10,000 data sets to explore.

The database was created to advance research on cellular activity, with the ultimate goal of improving human health. But even if you don’t study protein synthesis (how cells arrange amino acids to create proteins) or DNA metabolism (replicating and repairing DNA), you may be mesmerized by images, videos and animations of cells doing just that.

The Cell Image Library was funded by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health and managed by the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of California at San Diego. Ready to peep at some cells? Visit the library at cellimagelibrary.org.