Winners' gallery

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Zebrafish eye and neuromasts

Ingrid Lekk and Steve Wilson, University College London

This four-day-old zebrafish embryo has been modified using two mechanisms – borrowed from the fascinating worlds of bacteria and yeast – that are widely applied in genetics research. A DNA-editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9 was used to insert a gene called Gal4 next to the gene that the researchers wished to study. These Gal4 fish were then bred with special reporter fish to create fish where the gene of interest fluoresces red whenever it is activated.

Here, the scientists are using these Gal4 reporter fish to study a gene expressed in the lens of the eye (the red circle in the middle of the image) the head, and cells called neuromasts (the red dots). Neuromasts form a special mechanosensory system in fish that responds to surrounding water movements and is therefore essential for a variety of behaviours, from schooling to avoiding predators. This fish’s nervous system has also been labelled for study, and is shown in blueish-green.

The width of this image is 500 micrometres (0.5 mm).

Imaging technique: Confocal microscopy

A type of light microscopy that uses visible light (usually in the form of one or more lasers) to illuminate part of the object being viewed. Out-of-focus light above and below the point of focus is filtered out and eliminated from the final image. Thin optical slices through an object can be stacked on top of one another to produce a digital 3D reconstruction.

Location where image was created

London, UK

Image creators

Ingrid is a PhD student working on zebrafish brain asymmetry at University College London. Whether it is imaging embryonic development or running after beetles and butterflies in Estonian forests, she enjoys taking pictures of things too small or too fast for the eye to catch. Ingrid is a member of Steve’s research group, which has an interest in forebrain development, with current research topics focusing on eye development and brain asymmetry. Find out more.

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