Science Is Art: Flowery reflections
When she strolled by the cherry trees around the Campus Activities Building, Weiyi Xu, PhD, snapped a photo of a flowery pink blossom.
Later, Xu was preparing slides of breast tumor cells for fluorescence imaging. Xu is a postdoctoral student in the laboratory of Christopher Turner, PhD, a cell and developmental biologist with expertise in how cancer spreads.
Xu looked through the epifluorescence microscope, which uses high-intensity light to illuminate and study specific features of small specimens, such as cancer cells. She was amazed. An island of cancer cells was shaped like a flower, like her cherry blossom.
“They always cluster together,” she says of the cancer cells, “but the shapes of these islands can be variable. It could be hundreds of cells or tens of cells. And they don’t always look like a flower.”
In her microscopic image, at lower left in the photo, the red and green lines outline cells. Nine are clumped together. The blue area is a cytoskeleton component of the cell known as actin.