What A Confocal Microscope Can Do For You

Mouse Retina - Freya Mowat, Wellcome Images

The colourful image above shows the intricate structure of mouse retina, taken by Freya Mowat and one of the 2011 Wellcome Images Award winning photographs.

The image was taken using confocal microscopy, a technique much applied in life sciences to increase the resolution and contrast of the sample of interest. The retina is the part of the eye (in mice, humans and many other animals) that allows the image that comes through the lens to be translated by neurones into signals that the brain can then understand. The sample was artificially stained so the different colours highlight the various types of neurones and cells that form the retina, and which give the image above its vibrant hues.

As well as being plain pretty, the image above is also part of a larger study looking into how the retina is affected by the various effects of stress due to oxygen deprivation. The photographer, Freya Mowat, is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Ophthalmology at UCL, who is working as part of a larger project that will hopefully eventually help scientists and medical professionals understand why premie babies are more prone to developing retinal diseases.

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