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Inside the human eye

Peter Maloca, University of Basel

Download this image from Wellcome Collection.

3D image looking inside the back of a human eye. These tunnel-like structures are blood vessels which carry blood into the eye to provide it with the nutrition it needs. This layer of tissue (the choroid) is found at the back of the eyeball between the white of the eye and the retina, and is the major blood supply for the retina. The shape and structure of this tissue is unique in every person, like a fingerprint. Images like this are being used to detect diseases such as glaucoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and age-related macular degeneration. Blood cells are not visible here as they are moving too quickly to be included.

These tunnels or channels are approximately 100 micrometres (0.1 mm) tall.

Imaging technique: optical coherence tomography

Information about the blood vessels was taken from a 3D optical coherence tomography scan, using a new method for extracting and analysing the data. Colours and textures are added digitally to the final 3D image. Optical coherence tomography is a non-invasive way of using light to take pictures inside the eye, and works in a similar way to ultrasound but uses laser light instead of sound waves to produce cross-sectional images.

Location where image was created

Basel, Switzerland

Why did the judges choose this image?

“Are we in a computer game, a quest for treasure, perhaps? But to play such a game requires good eyesight, and these tunnels and the blood that flows through them are essential to maintain the health and proper functioning of the retina. They are part of the treasure that many of us take for granted, good vision, which allows us to appreciate all the images here. Imagine if there was no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute

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