The 2016 BioArt Winners

Scroll below for the winners of the 2016 BioArt Contest. For better viewing, click the images below to enlarge them.

Eduardo Zattara*1, Armin Moczek1, Jim Powers†1, Jonathan Cherry2, and Matthew Curtis2

1Indiana University Bloomington (Bloomington, IN)
2Carl Zeiss Microscopy

*Society for Developmental Biology
†Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities

Research Focus: Insect development

This highly-detailed image of the central nervous system from a horned dung beetle (Onthophagus sagittarius) was captured with a laser-scanning confocal microscope. Imaged during the late pupa stage, this beetle was about to complete metamorphosis. The optic lobes (top) are in the process of growing and extending towards the outer surface of the head to form a pair of compound eyes. Different colored fluorescent labels were used to visualize the distribution of a structural protein (red), the neurotransmitter serotonin (green), and genetic material (blue). This image is from a National Science Foundation-supported research project on the evolution of novel and complex traits.

Scott Chimileski* and Roberto Kolter

Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)
Genetics Society of America

Research Focus: Microbial communities

Millions of microbes can join to form communities called biofilms. These communities are common in natural environments and generally do not pose any danger to humans. Many microbes in biofilms have a positive impact on the planet and our societies. This dime-sized biofilm, however, was formed by the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Under the right conditions, this bacterium can infect wounds caused by severe burns. The bacterial cells release a variety of materials to form an extracellular matrix (stained red). The matrix holds the biofilm together and protects the bacteria from antibiotics and the immune system. NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences supports Drs. Chimileski and Kolter’s research on the fundamental processes of biofilm formation.

Valerie O'Brien, Matthew Joens, Scott J. Hultgren, and James A.J. Fitzpatrick

Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO)

Research Focus: Urinary tract infection

A long-lasting, severe urinary tract infection (UTI) increases the risk of subsequent UTIs even after the first infection has been cured. This scanning electron microscopy image from a mouse model of UTI illustrates enhanced susceptibility to a second infection: the white blood cells (yellow) fail to control the bacteria (red) that cause UTIs in the bladder (blue). The investigators seek to identify how severe UTIs alter a host’s response to new infections. The NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and Office of Research on Women’s Health provide support for this research.

Oscar Ruiz and George Eisenhoffer*

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX)
*Genetics Society of America and Society for Developmental Biology

Research Focus: Developmental biology

To form new tissues and structures during development, populations of cells move, often over long distances. This movement, called cell migration, is highly coordinated across space and time. This zebrafish (Danio rerio) larva was labeled with red fluorescent molecules to identify the migrating cells that will compose the surface of the fish’s skin, or epithelium. Genetic material (blue) and, in a subset of cells, a structural protein (green) were also labeled. Although this image is of a fixed zebrafish, the research group is using live imaging to observe the movement of these cell populations in real time. Drs. Ruiz and Eisenhoffer are researching cell migration to better understand normal facial development as well as the genetic mutations in humans that lead to congenital birth defects such as cleft lip and palate.

Michael Shen1, Jasmine Temple1, Leslie Mitchell1*, Nick Phillips2, James Chuang2, Jiarui Wang2, and Jef Boeke1*

1New York University School of Medicine (New York, NY)
2Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD)
*Genetics Society of America

Research Focus: Genetic engineering

This skyline of New York City was created by “printing” nanodroplets containing yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) onto a large agar plate. Each dot is a separate yeast colony. As the colonies grew, a picture emerged, creating yeast art. To generate the different colors, the yeast strains were genetically engineered to produce pigments naturally made by bacteria, fungi, and anemones. Using genes from other organisms to make biological compounds paves the way toward harnessing yeast in the production of other useful molecules, from food to fuels and drugs. The Boeke laboratory’s work on yeast, retrotransposons, and synthetic biology is supported by the National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

David Sleboda and Thomas Roberts*

Brown University (Providence, RI)
*American Physiological Society

Research Focus: Muscle function

Composed primarily of collagen, connective tissue surrounds each individual muscle cell, creating a complex network. When an organism moves, the connective tissue helps transfer the force created by muscle cells to tendons and bones. This scanning electron microscopy image shows the connective tissue in a bullfrog’s leg muscle. The cells have been chemically digested away, leaving only collagen behind. The researchers are studying the structure of connective tissue from a variety of species to understand how it shapes muscle function. They also hope to learn how diseases that affect collagen structure influence muscle health. The National Science Foundation and NIH National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases provide funding for this research.

Maria Voigt and David S. Goodsell

Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics, Protein Data Bank (Piscataway, NJ/La Jolla, CA)

Research Focus: HIV

These images model the molecular structures of three enzymes with critical roles in the life cycle of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). At the top, reverse transcriptase (orange) creates a DNA copy (yellow) of the virus’s RNA genome (blue). In the middle image, integrase (magenta) inserts this DNA copy in the DNA genome (green) of the infected cell. At the bottom, much later in the viral life cycle, protease (turquoise) chops up a chain of HIV structural protein (purple) to generate the building blocks for making new viruses. These molecular graphics are based on atomic structural data deposited in the Protein Data Bank. The National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Department of Energy Office of Science support the Protein Data Bank to make structural data publicly accessible.

Mark McClendon, Zaida Alvarez Pinto, and Samuel I. Stupp

Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)

Research Focus: Spinal cord regeneration

Spinal cord injuries often lead to lifelong disabilities. To achieve functional recovery, the nerve pathways that were damaged must be reconnected. One potential solution is to induce the nerve stem cells already present in the adult spinal cord to reestablish these connections. This requires activating the stem cells to grow long extensions while simultaneously preventing the formation of scar tissue, which can block these extensions. This image from a NIH National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering-supported study shows a mouse nerve cell (blue/green) on a synthetic nanofiber gel (purple) designed to mimic healthy spinal cord tissue. The nerve cell has grown long extensions (green) into the gel. The researchers found that injecting these nanofibers at the site of a spinal cord injury reduced scar formation and helped to restore hind leg function in mice.

William Munoz*†‡, Karla Terrazas†, and Paul Trainor*†

Stowers Institute for Medical Research (Kansas City, MO)
* American Association of Anatomists
† Society for Developmental Biology
‡ Genetics Society of America

Research Focus: Skeletal development

Proper bone and cartilage development is critical to support body structure and protect vital organs. For example, the skull supports and protects the brain while the ribs protect the heart, lungs, liver, and spleen. As seen in this image of mice at different developmental stages, bone (green) and cartilage (reddish-orange) formation begins during the embryonic period (far left) and continues throughout adolescence (far right). The NIH National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research supports this research program on genetic mutations that cause abnormal skeletal formation and underlie many congenital birth defects.

Randee Young and Xin Sun*

University of Wisconsin–Madison (Madison, WI)
* Society for Developmental Biology and Genetics Society of America

Research Focus: Lung development

C-shaped rings of cartilage (red) give the trachea, or windpipe, its shape and strength. Because all oxygen that reaches the lungs must first pass through the trachea, its structural integrity is essential to human life. In conditions like tracheomalacia, malformation of the cartilage weakens the trachea, leading to airway collapse. The NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute supports this research project on identifying the signals that prompt developing cartilage to segment into C-shaped rings. This image from a mouse is helping the investigators examine the organization of nerve cells (green) and their potential role in directing cartilage (red) formation.

Anthony Vecchiarelli and Kiyoshi Mizuuchi

National Institutes of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, MD)

Research Focus: Regulation of cell division

Bacterial cells reproduce by dividing in half. During division, the protein MinE (red) chases the protein MinD (blue) from one end of the cell to the other, creating oscillations. These oscillations are used to center the division machinery so that the two new cells will be the same size. In this video, the MinE and MinD proteins were purified, labeled with fluorescent molecules, and then placed on a synthetic membrane. As the two proteins self-organize to create oscillations, they generate dynamic patterns (left panel: MinD; right panel: MinE; center panel: both). This research on bacterial protein self-organization was conducted through the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases intramural research program.

Paul M. Gignac1* and Nathan J. Kley2

1Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences (Tulsa, OK)
2Stony Brook University School of Medicine (Stony Brook, NY)
* American Association of Anatomists

Research Focus: Imaging techniques

This video virtually descends through the head of a Macklot’s python (Liasis mackloti), revealing the many structures inside. It was created from micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) scans, which can provide greater resolution than possible with current MRI technologies. Iodine staining was used to increase contrast, generating more detailed images of soft tissues like the brain and glands. Because a tissue’s composition determines how much iodine it can bind, this technique also allows researchers to distinguish between gray and white matter in the brain and visualize other delicate structures. Drs. Gignac and Kley receive support from the National Science Foundation to improve the application of this imaging technique in morphological research.

Caitlin Vander Weele and Kay M. Tye

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)

Research Focus: Neuroscience

When a nerve cell is activated, it opens tiny channels and allows calcium to flood the cell. In this video, nerve cells in the brain were engineered to produce a fluorescent calcium indicator. Each time a cell is activated, the fluorescent indicator lights up. These fast changes can be detected with a small, head-mounted mini-microscope. This allows the researchers to examine brain cell activity in animals while they perform various tasks. The National Science Foundation and the NIH National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and National Institute of General Medical Sciences provide support for this research on brain circuitry and how it affects behavior.