From BPoD

Image by Gabriel Popescu
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

"When you give blood, your red blood cells are separated and banked until they’re needed for a transfusion. During storage, those cells undergo biochemical and structural changes, but for the most part appear like new. Now, researchers have used a special microscopy technique to look closely at how storage affects the performance of red blood cells. Taking time-lapse images of the cells to chart nanoscale fluctuations in the cell membrane (pictured) over time, the researchers found that red blood cell membranes get stiffer during storage, which impairs their ability to carry oxygen around the body. Stiffened cells look fine and retain normal levels of oxygen-carrying haemoglobin, but they’re not flexible enough to squeeze through narrow capillaries – in the brain, for example – which could cause serious problems in transfusion recipients. Potentially, doctors could use this imaging method to check red blood cells before they’re given to patients.”

Written by Daniel Cossins

Originally published on

Butterfly scales | Jo Angell Design

Coloured Scanning Electron Micrograph (SEM) of scales from the wing of a peacock butterfly, Inachis io. These scales have an intricate design and overlap like the tiles on the roof of a building. They allow heat and light to enter, and also insulate the insect. They may also be highly coloured. The metallic appearance of the scales is due to ridges along their length. 


With all the hype surrounding the untapped abounding resources of cannabis - medicinally, agriculturally, or otherwise undetermined knowns as of yet - the pictures above provide you with a glimpse into the beauty of the plant, unfettered from government or political divides or opinion.

Sativa and Indica strains of cannabis get their close up through a scanning electron microscope in Ford McCann’s book “Cannabis Under The Microscope: A Visual Exploration of Medicinal Sativa and C. Indica.

Source reference: LeafScience

Want more SEM photography? Wander over to Rose-Lynn Fisher’s site and indulge in her gorgeous book’s ‘BEE’ and ‘The Topography of Tears’


The world looks better through a scientific lens. According to the 2014 Wellcome Image Awards winners, anyway. Here’s my favorites:

  • At top we see the cross-section of a lily flower bud by Spike Walker, perfectly illustrating the ordered anatomy of a bloom, from eggy ovules to spermy stamens to beautifully bundled petals and sepals.
  • Next, we see a pair of wee monsters, an electron micrograph image of a louse embedded on a human hair, by Kevin Mackenzie, and a zebrafish embryo, all eyes on you, by Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy.
  • Next we see the false-colored silver oxide flowers that “grow” from stems of calcium carbonate after agricultural sludge is burned at high temperatures, from Eberhart Kernahan. Next to that is a rather painful-looking kidney stone that could be mistaken for an alien moon, by Kevin Mackenzie.
  • Finally, an x-ray of a bat, by Chris Thorn, reminding us that the wings of those much-maligned mammals are just really big webby hands.

Check out the full winners’ gallery here.


Pepto-Bismol Lakes

These are not the product of photoshopping, pharmaceutical chemical run-off or man made dyes. These are naturally occurring lakes.

Lake Hillier in Western Australia is teeming with salmon pink water.

Likewise, Lake Retba in Senegal is so milkshake pink that its water looks good enough to drink.

To find out why these bodies of water look so bubblegummy, researchers from the University of Bath (for real, no watery pun intended) in the UK examined pink lake H20 under their microscopes and found that:

The lakes are saltier than the sea

Almost ten times saltier than the regular ocean in fact. This high salinity (up to 40% salt in solution) makes the lake just like the Dead Sea where swimmers are so buoyant that they float around due to its high density compared to their body mass.

The lakes are full of algae and bacteria

Samples of the H20 when examined under the microscope reveal large quantities of the salt loving micro-algae Dunaliella salina and halophilic bacteria. The law of osmosis tells us that water moves from regions of high concentration to regions of low concentration in the presence of a semi-permeable membrane. Most cellular organism therefore would shrivel up and die when placed in the high saline environment of these lakes because all of their water would move out of their cells into the surrounding lake across their semi-permeable plasma membranes by osmosis. D. salina, however, can survive in these conditions. It does so by synthesizing large volumes of glycerol in the cytoplasm of its cells to counter-balance the effects of osmosis resulting in no net move of water across its membranes (Oren, 2005). This makes them highly suited to life in a salty lake but it doesn’t explain the pink hue to the lake.

The algae and bacteria make carotenoids

D. salina has been known to medicine for a long time. The algae was of interest to scientists who wondered how these organisms could survive and thrive in salt flats that have dried out due to water evaporation during periods of extreme heat and sunlight exposure. They do so because they can tolerate the high levels of solar radiation by synthesizing large amounts of β-carotene, an antioxidant that protects cells from damage and is used to produce Vitamin A - both of which are substances now used in cosmetics, skin care products and sunscreens. Sweet potatoes and carrots are also rich in β-carotene which gives them their distinctive pink/orange colors. A color similar to the carotenes produced by the microorganisms in the lakes and therefore contributing to their unique pinkness (Oren, 2001).

Pink lakes, an amazing natural mystery with a simple microscopical solution (also a great vacation spot for Barbie).



1. Oren A. “A century years of Dunaliella research: 1905-2005.” Saline Systems, 2005.

2. Oren A. and Rodriguez-Valera F. “The contribution of halophilic Bacteria to the red coloration of saltern crystallizer ponds.” FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 2001.

Awesome shot of a healing wound 

Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a healing wound on the skin. There are red blood cells (erythrocytes) on the skin’s surface.

Keratinocytes (skin cells that contain the protein keratin, centre) are forming a hard protective layer (scab) over the wound.

Magnification x400, by Steve Gschmeissner

text source 

Crystallized tartrazine

Also known as FD&C Yellow 5 or E102, tartrazine is a yellow dye commonly used in processed goods like ice cream, soft drinks, moisturizers, pet foods, and crayons. Of all azo dyes, tartrazine frequently causes allergic and intolerant reactions, though the mechanism of sensitivity is not clear. While conflicting studies have been published regarding its role in promoting hyperactive behaviors in children, tartrazine is being voluntarily phased out in many countries in Europe. In the United States, foods or drugs containing tartrazine must declare the chemical on their ingredients list; the Food and Drug Administration frequently seizes imported products containing undeclared tartrazine.

Image by Frederic Labaune.


Photomicrography by Michal Kukla
February 4 - 16, 2014

Animalia  >  Arthropoda  >  Hexapoda  >  Insecta  >
Diptera  >  Chaoboridae  >  Chaoborus

The larva of the phantom midge is called a glassworm.

Glassworms are almost entirely transparent, except for pairs of black kidney-shaped structures in the front and the back of the body. These are air sacs, used to migrate up and down in lakes. Glassworms breathe through the end of their abdomen and have two small eyes at the front of their bodies.