HeArt of Science Rebecca Richardson May Art of Science Winner Memetic Drift

Art of Science – HeART of Science

Science is amazing. Science is advancement. And sometimes, science is art. Each month this year Memetic Drift will feature a winning image from the University of Bristol’s Art of Science competition 2014.

Zebrafish have the amazing ability to heal their broken hearts, quite literally.

These little fish, which we met in February in a ghostly box, can endure quite serious damage to their hearts and yet make full recoveries.

While humans have pretty good healing powers, our bodies are not great at regenerating or removing scars. Scars are outward signs of our healing abilities, but come with their own problems. On the skin, for example, they can permanently reduce flexibility of the area, itch or ache for many years after forming, not to mention the cosmetic and emotional implications. Scarring inside the body, such as cardiac tissue after a heart attack or liver cirrhosis, can really impact on how well our organs function. If we could understand what tricks zebrafish use to make their heart good-as-new, perhaps we can adapt some for ourselves and make speedier, more complete recoveries.

This goal is what drives the research of Dr Beck Richardson from the School of Physiology and Pharmacology. She took this image of an entire adult zebrafish heart using confocal microscopy, a popular technique among cell scientists. Click for full size. 

HeArt of Science Rebecca Richardson May Art of Science Winner Memetic Drift

Of course, fish hearts aren’t actually quite so vibrant; the gorgeous colours instead come from fluorescent stains and antibodies which bind very specifically to certain molecules. Beck added these before taking the shot to make tracking and identification much easier.

The blue background comes from the nuclei of the heart cells. The red is collagen, a major component of scar tissue. The green comes from immune cells responding to injury where they have important roles in healing, protection from invading microbes and perhaps scar removal.

The fact it’s even possible to image a whole organ in so much detail is pretty incredible, I think. The resulting image happens to be absolutely beautiful – I guess you could say it really gets to the heart of what art and science’s interaction can bring.

Next month’s image is your new desktop background…

The annual Art of Science competition at the University of Bristol bridges the perceived divide between art and science, showing images which visually demonstrate that the pursuit of knowledge can be as beautiful as it is fascinating. 

This year there were three prize categories; Judges’ vote, People’s vote, and Schools’ vote. Each category had a 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize, and a runner-up. HeART of Science was runner-up in the People’s vote. Image used with permission. 


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