Winners' gallery

Take a look at this year's winning images.


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Synthetic DNA channel transporting cargo across membranes

Michael Northrop

Every cell is surrounded by a membrane, which serves to protect the cell’s contents from its external environment, provide support, and connect the cell to others to form tissues and organs. Tube-like channels made of proteins span this membrane and control two-way communication between the cell and its environment. Researchers are using DNA as a building material to make synthetic channels that behave in exactly the same way. This image is an artist’s representation of what these channels look like. Cargo travelling through the channel is shown as coloured spheres, while the mirrored coils around the edge of the image represent six DNA double helices, making up the walls of the channel. These DNA nanostructures are currently being engineered for use in vaccines, biofuels and biosensors, and as research tools.

The width of this image represents less than 1.3 nanometres. 

Imaging technique: digital art and illustration

Scientific illustration often aims to depict an object not readily visible by eye or to help explain a concept or process. Here, Michael has used known information about DNA structure and cell membrane channels to interpret and visualise the unknown structure of the synthetic channel. Colour and perspective have been applied to explain its 3D structure.

Location where image was created

Utah, USA 

Image creator

Michael began his career as a designer at an outdoor advertising agency in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, where he was introduced to digital design and the Macintosh computer. Thirty years later, Michael’s design career is still going strong: he is currently serving as the manager of multimedia, print and design at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, in addition to completing a Master’s programme in graphic information technology. Find out more.

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