Michigan scientists get cellular for an art project
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder—but it’s also in the brain cells, heart cells and stem cells, too.
Medical researchers at the University of Michigan are showcasing the beauty of science in a collection of brightly colored prints that appear to invoke the abstraction of modern art more than the groundbreaking study of disease.
But that’s exactly what the images are: collections of cells taken from the microscopes and scanners of U-M scientists that aim to further scientific knowledge about how the body works. The researchers displayed the images—part of the U-M Bioartography program, run by the Center for Organogenesis—this month at Ann Arbor’s Art Fair, which draws hundreds of artists and thousands of art lovers.
One image, “Monet’s Garden,” by Dawen Cai, an associate research scientist, features mouse brain cells that have been genetically modified to show connections between neurons. The result is a “brainbow,” teardrops of pinks, reds and yellows against a background of dark greens and blues.
Another image, “He Wears His Heart on His Sleeve,” by Dr. Jack Parent, a stem-cell researcher, shows pulsating heart muscle cells in neon greens and reds. The cells were pluripotent stem cells that were induced to be heart muscle cells, and actually “beat” in culture.
Sales of the prints, also available online at bioartography.com, help support travel grants for young scientists to present their work at conferences.
“Monet’s Garden,” left, and “He Wears His Heart on His Sleeve” are two of the works derived from cell images.