Science News

Time-Lapse Video of Zebrafish “Inner Ear” Development Wins Small World in Motion Competition

Nikon Instruments Inc. recently announced the winners of the fourth annual Nikon Small World in Motion Photomicrography Competition. First place for the 2014 competition is awarded to Dr. Mariana Muzzopappa (of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine Barcelona) and Jim Swoger (of the Center for Genomic Regulation, Barcelona), for their stunning capture of the development of a zebrafish lateral line – a process that could provide insight into curing deafness in humans.

The mesmerizing first-place video demonstrates the development of the zebrafish lateral line, a sensory organ analogous to the inner ear of humans, that in fish senses movements in the surrounding water. Muzzopappa and Swoger captured this time-lapse footage by using a combination of transgenes in the fish to label undifferentiated and support cells, and track hair cell differentiation throughout a 36-hour timeframe. The result is an examination of organ development that is stunning not only in its visual effect, but the potential it represents for scientists to one-day replicate the process to counter hearing loss in humans.

Dr. Douglas Clark of Paedia Corporation took second place with a time-lapse look at crystals forming in a single drop of a saturated solution of caffeine in water. This 20-minute process is compressed into just 40 seconds in the video, revealing the beautifully chaotic formation of linear crystalline segments in a constrained space. Clark used polarized diascopic illumination to reveal the rainbow crystals that formed in the solution, a dynamic return to equilibrium from a liquid state.

Finally, Dr. John Hart, professor emeritus of the University of Colorado, Boulder, earned third place for his video of volatile oil film on a water surface. As a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences for many years, Hart aimed to capture the small-scale dynamics of evaporation, instability, and coalescence within the oil film that are important to the longevity of fuel spills. Hart also revealed an unexpected beauty, using reflected light differential interference contrast (DIC) techniques to capture the vibrant, almost-shimmering colors.

“The capability to capture and share the movement or development of a specimen under the microscope clearly represents one of the greater advancements in the tools available to the scientific community in recent years – and we are honored to shine a light on some of the best examples each year,” said Eric Flem, Communications and CRM manager, for Nikon Instruments. “We are continually amazed that this equipment is involved not only in doing the cutting edge science, but also enabling us all to witness it firsthand. As the deadline for this year’s competition approaches, we hope that these winning videos will inspire other scientists and science-enthusiasts to share the beauty and motion they capture under a microscope as well.”

The 2014 Nikon Small World in Motion competition was judged by Paul Maddox, Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The full gallery of winning videos can be viewed here.

 

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