The Wellcome Image Awards 2011 were announced last night. The Awards recognise the most technically excellent, visually striking and informative biomedical images recently acquired by Wellcome Images. The winning images have been produced by a range of imaging techniques and their creators come from a variety of fields. Every image shows the true beauty of science. Two weeks ago, we wrote about the judging process behind choosing these 21 images. We hinted at what some of the chosen ones might be, and we can now reveal the winners.
The image described by judge Eric Hilaire as being so similar to a painting of “a large red sun spreading its rays toward rows of shooting plants, maybe in a garden bed,” is in fact this light micrograph by Spike Walker. Amazingly, rather than plant life, the image shows the suckers on the foreleg of a male diving beetle. Spike used a technique called Rheinberg illumination to produce the colours that struck Eric’s imagination.
James Cutmore, of BBC’s Focus magazine, was intrigued by one particular image on the day of judging. He remarked that it showed something so ordinary, but in a completely unexpected way. What was this ordinary occurrence? A cut finger. The image? A remarkable scanning electron micrograph of the plaster used to stem the bleeding. The resolution is so great that individual red blood cells can be seen caught in the fibrin mesh that forms the blood clot.
BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh commented that many of the images gave “a new insight into medicine and science.” A prime example of this is the only animation that was awarded at this year’s ceremony. It is a 3D view of a developing mouse embryo, created using a recently developed imaging technique called optical projection tomography (OPT). The technique allows a sample to be imaged whole, and reveals how structures in the embryo develop relative to other parts of the body. The still itself is stunning, but watch the animation below and the entire beauty of the technique will be revealed.