Using microscopes to observe living things has been one of the most powerful ways to understand how biology works, at least since Dutch naturalist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek first zoomed in on bacteria in the 1600s. Today, high-magnification images can help design new medical tools, enrich our understanding of diseases, and explain how embryos develop. And, as shown by the 2023 winners from MIT Koch Institute Image Awardsthey can also be works of art.
The image above shows Arabidopsis thaliana pollen with proteins removed from their nuclear lamina, a membrane of dense filaments that give cells structure. People with laminar deficiency (a mutation seen in several skeletal and muscular conditions) generally cannot live more than 20 years, according to biologists at MIT’s Whitehead Institute and the Koch Institute who took this photo. They glued the beads to carbon tape and imaged them using a Zeiss Crossbeam microscope. Without these proteins, pollen also appears misshapen—also underscoring the importance of this meshwork for plants.