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April 23, 2014 AT 12:29 PM
Sequential images of a ten day old quail embryo have won Portuguese biologist, Gabriel G. Martins first prize in this year's Nikon Small World in Motion Photomicrography Competition. The entry was one of hundreds submitted for the contest, which aims to highlight the latest techniques of scientific imaging. Using a technique called optical tomography, Martins was able to produce a sequence of "virtual" slices through the whole embryo at 10 days of gestation. It's an imaging method that allows scientists to study the whole anatomy of large specimens. Second place went to Michael Weber of The Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany for his video showing the beating heart of a two-day old zebrafish embryo. The heart - which is only 250 micrometers or just slightly larger than the diameter of a human hair - was reconstructed in 3D after being imaged using light sheet fluorescence microscopy in the living zebrafish. The sequence clearly shows blood cells moving through the heart and adjacent vessels. Third place went to Dr. Lin Shao of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia. His video entry features a live HeLa (cancer) cell, which shows for the first time the inner details of the mitochondria in a living cell within a 3D image. Shao used structured illuminated microscopy applied to the wide field microscope, doubling the normal resolution of the conventional microscope. With this technique, Dr. Shao captured more than 50 time points which were then reconstructed in three dimensions. The Nikon Small World in Motion Photomicrography Competition is designed to highlight the advances of imaging techniques in science. Nikon says the videos "remind us all that cutting-edge science and imaging are not only happening every day, but can be artistically intriguing as well."