Bioethics Blogs

Snapshots of Life: A Fantastic Voyage, Inside the Airport

Poster for scientific images exhibit

Caption: Confocal microscopy is used to visualize the activity of the sox9b gene (green) in the developing zebrafish fin; collagen (red), DNA (blue).
Credit: Jessica Plavicki, University of Wisconsin, Madison

It’s not every day that you can take flight on a fantastic voyage without leaving the airport. But that’s what will happen if you visit the Life:Magnified exhibit currently on display at Washington Dulles International Airport.

If you only glimpse the exhibit as you’re running to catch a flight, you’ll probably think it’s an art display: gorgeous modern photography. Look closer. You’ll find cells and other of life’s tiniest parts—blood, brain, and cancer cells; bacteria, viruses, even gecko toe hairs—all magnified up to 50,000 times, using the latest microscopy techniques. A stunning array of colors have been added to the images, not only to enhance their visual appeal, but also (even primarily!) to help scientists conduct biomedical research. And, as you browse the images, you can take a journey through a part of the biological world that, though rarely seen, is within and all around us.

NIH-funded researchers created many of these 46 images, which were selected from more than 600 submissions by a panel composed of judges from our own National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). The cells and structures featured are derived not only from humans, but also from a range of model organisms—flies, fish, mice, and plants—that are vital for generating important insights into health and disease.

Part of the fun of this exhibit is guessing the subject of each image.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.