Rainbow Mouse Kidney Named Year’s Best Science Research Image

0Winner_Nian Wang copy
The competition aims to highlight the innovative spirit and curiosity of research in progress around the world. Nian Wang

A multicolored MRI image of a mouse’s kidney has won the annual ‘Research in Progress’ photo competition from BioMed Central (BMC), a scientific publisher.

Nian Wang of Duke University captured the kidney’s filtration system in rainbow hues, representing the organ as a delicate, floating net of color.

“The image shows the complex 3D tubular structures of a mouse kidney,” said Nian Wang. “The non-destructive nature of MRI and its ability to assess the renal microstructure in 3D make it a promising tool to understand the complex structures of the renal system.”

Some 373 entries were submitted to this year’s competition, which aims to highlight the innovative spirit and curiosity of research in progress around the world.

Rachel Burley, Publishing Director of BMC, said of Wang’s image: “The as yet unseen detail and striking colors in this image very much appealed to our judges.”

“For us, it demonstrates the ability of science and research to offer new perspectives on aspects of life that are familiar to everyone, but whose details are still being explored, leading to fascinating new discoveries. It also shows how unexpected beauty can be revealed almost as a side-effect of a researcher’s main work.”

Judges selected 15 outstanding images from the hundreds submitted. The runner-up is a high-resolution 3D reconstruction of a fruit fly head, while the two highly commended images show venom drops extracted from a spider and a group of children in Bangladesh gathered around a microchip.

“The BMC ‘Research in progress’ photo competition was created to celebrate the innovative and progressive spirit of the research community, as seen from the perspective of scientists, researchers, and authors,” said Burley.

“The variety and range of the images submitted to our competition reflect our commitment to advancing discovery, as we and our communities move forward together in the new year.”

From a frog wearing a tracking device to an image generated by a deep dream algorithm, these are some of the year’s most fascinating images to emerge from the world of scientific research.

1 Winner_Nian Wang
Nian Wang

Winner—’Kidney Rainbow’ by Nian Wang, Center for In Vivo Microcopy (Directed by Dr. G. Allan Johnson), Duke University, U.S
“Higher-order diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive imaging technique which makes it possible to estimate the location, orientation, and anisotropy of the tubular tracts in the kidney. The color stands for different orientation of the tubules.”

2 RunnerUp_An-Lun Chin
An-Lun Chin

Runner Up—’Synchrotron x-ray tomographic 3D reconstruction of the Drosophila brain circuitry structure’ by An-Lun Chin, Brain Research Center, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan    
“3D reconstruction of a Drosophila [fruit fly] head showing the nervous systems (blue-to-green), muscles (orange), cuticles (grey), and visual sensory system (red). The dorsal-half capsule was made transparent to show the internal structures and Golgi-impregnated neural wiring structures inside the brain.”

3 Highly Recommended_Daniel Moreira dos Santos
Daniel M Santos

Highly Commended—’Spider Drops’ by Daniel M Santos, Ezequiel Dias Foundation (Fundação Ezequiel Dias /Belo Horizonte-Brazil) 
“This spider venom showed dozens of toxins with different targets. New studies demonstrate interesting activities against various human pathogens.”

4 Highly Recommended_Sudipto Das
Sudipto Das

Highly Commended—’Magic of Research’ by Sudipto Das
“School children from a remote village in Sunderbans Island [in Bangladesh] gaze at a microchip during their visit to a national research institute in the city of Kolkata, India.”

04Jianqun Gao
Jianqun Gao

‘Climbing’ by Jianqun Gao, The University of Sydney, Australia        
“Climbing is in the spirit of athletes, to conquer difficulties and limitations. Climbing is in the spirit of scientists, to fulfill impossible missions. Climbing is also in the spirit of a little ant, to see the views from the top of the plant. An ant was climbing on a flower towards its top end when I took this photo. I had been waiting for 27 minutes before this fleeting moment, when the ant stood still for a second. I think this is the attitude of research; be patient and be determined.”

05 Alaa Abi Haidar
Alaa Abi Haidar

‘Deep Fractal Dream of the Ego’ by Alaa Abi Haidar, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC), Portugal 
“A Madlebrot Fractal fed to a deep dream algorithm that was trained on autoportraits of the author resulting in this hallucination of fractal eyes. The photo is generated by Artificial Intelligence, research and patience.”

05 Andrius Pašukonis
Andrius Pašukonis

‘Tracking poison frog fathers’ by Andrius Pašukonis, Stanford University, USA        
“A father dyeing poison frog (Dendrobates tinctorius) carrying a tadpole while wearing a tracking device. We deployed miniature radio-transmitters to study the behavior and movement patterns of these small frogs. In this photograph, a male dyeing poison frog is carrying his single tadpole (the black mass on his back) while wearing a color-matched radio-transmitter allowing to track his movements.”

05 Breech Harani
Breech Asher Harani  

‘Lekking’ by Breech Asher Harani    
“A group of crane flies in the Southern Philippines create a stunning natural display that is a male aggregation called 'Lekking'. This behavior can be seen in many species and though it is believed to help improve reproduction, but studies are still ongoing as to how these insects do this and how it evolved into what it is now. This particular species of crane flies are in danger of losing their natural habitat in the forest due to climate change and their absence is affecting the balance of our ecosystem. Researchers and conservationists are currently figuring out how to save them from disappearing.”

05Jorge Alberto Sierra Escobar
Jorge Alberto Sierra Escobar

‘Family mimicry’ by Jorge Alberto Sierra Escobar, Universidad Católica de Oriente, Colombia    
“I live on a farm and I work with plants. Part of the farm has a small Andean forest that borders a hydrangea crop. On the edge of the forest I found a "gallina ciega" possibly of the species Caprimulgus sp. This bird is nocturnal. When we found it, we were surprised by its ability to blend into the vegetation, especially on the trunk of a tree. Every day we saw the bird on the same trunk, but only after a while we saw that the bird was with its chick. During the day the mother and the chick remain quiet; it seems that they enter into a state of meditation, which makes it very difficult to see them.”

06Laura Torres
Laura Torres 

‘Diversos desde nuestras células’ by Laura Torres        
“The image is a collage of photographs of colonic-forming endothelial cells (ECFCs) isolated from peripheral blood of patients undergoing cardiovascular surgery. The photographs were taken on a mobile phone, using a phase contrast optical microscope, 20x objective. The image aims to show how the cells, although they are of the same cell type, vary in morphology; some are more round, others more elongated, some more confluent than others. The objective of this collage is, therefore, to recognize diversity, as an essential aspect of our existence.”

07Lidianne Salvatierra
Lidianne Salvatierra

‘Look into my eyes’ by Lidianne Salvatierra, Federal University of Tocantins (UFT), Brazil    
“Frontal face of a jumping spider (Salticidae). Jumping spiders have well-developed eyes and can actually form images.”