A Rat's Eye is a Vision of Beauty
If the key to the inner self is visible by looking deeply into someone's eyes, rats must be among nature's most glorious creatures – for a stunning, brilliantly hued and richly patterned photograph showing the inside of an aging rat's eye has been chosen as the first prize winner in the 2005 Olympus BioScapes International Digital Imaging Competition. Olympus sponsors the annual competition to honor the finest life science still images and movies in the world, as captured through light microscopes.
Winners of this year's competition were recognized last night at San Francisco's elegant Diablo Grande Wine Gallery, where selected images will remain on display to the public for another week. After leaving San Francisco, 21 of the photographs will tour museums throughout the U.S. as part of a program developed in tandem with Natural History Magazine. Natural History is also featuring selected images in this month's issue.
The winning photo by Hussein Mansour, a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney in Australia, shows how aging can affect the eye and brain. Blood vessels look blue, and astrocytes (so-called "helper" cells of the nervous system) are mostly red, creating a graceful branching pattern. But the beauty belies a darker truth. As rats (and people) age, their astrocytes change; some scientists believe that understanding astrocyte changes is part of the core of understanding age-related brain disease and degeneration.
"These pictures combine aesthetic beauty, technical expertise and scientific knowledge to tell stories of great meaning," said George Steares, Group Vice President of Olympus America's Scientific Equipment Group.
"The winning photos and movies record scientists' findings, demonstrate the extraordinary capabilities of today's research microscope systems and most important, reveal the always-surprising splendor of the natural world through these moments of discovery," Steares continued.
Other top-five winners in the BioScapes competition were Ruben Sandoval of Indiana University, Indianapolis, for a vivid 3D image of a glomerulus in a kidney; Viktor Sykora from the Czech Republic, for a superb photograph of a plant seed with the tuft that carries it on the wind; Rudolf Oldenbourg of the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, and James LaFountain of SUNY Buffalo for their masterful image of meiosis, the type of cell division that results in the production of sperm cells, in a fly; and Thomas Deerinck of the University of California, San Diego, for a nanotechnology image of a mouse kidney.
In addition to the top 10 winners, 68 honorable mention awards were named, including nine movies. The judges also gave Ruben Sandoval, Rudolf Oldenbourg and James LaFountain Special Recognition for Technical Merit for their winning images, and awarded Honorable Mention winner Tora Bardal of Norway the Judges' Special Recognition for Artistic Merit for her striking image of a Japanese eel embryo.
BioScapes recognizes images, image series, and movies of life science-related subjects, and is open to people using any brand of light microscope. An impartial panel of judges selects the winners each year. This year's BioScapes judges included Dr. Doug Murphy, Professor of Cell Biology and Director of the School of Medicine Microscope Facility at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore; George Patterson, of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD; Dr. Alison North, Director of The Rockefeller University's Bio-Imaging Resource Center in New York City; and Dr. Kenneth N. Fish, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh.
THE HONOREES IN THE 2005 OLYMPUS BIOSCAPES COMPETITION:
A gallery of winners and honorable mentions is available at www.olympusbioscapes.com.
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