Beauty Lies in the Eyes of Fruit Flies

(January 31st, 2014) There are already plenty of scientific image competitions out there. Since last year, SVI, a Dutch company selling image processing software launched its own – the Huygens Image Contest. This year’s winner comes from Austria and the world of diptera.



The creative process of research and art occasionally find a meeting point, for example when the beauty of science is captured in stunning visuals. Nowadays, software for image processing is as important as lenses and filters. Hence, it’s not very surprising that besides the optics giants Nikon and Olympus, also companies like the Netherlands-based Scientific Volume Imaging (SVI), selling analysis software, proclaim their own science image competition. Recently, first-time contest participant Karin Panser from the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna won the first prize in the international SVI ‘Huygens Image Contest’ 2013 with her microscopic image, showing a beautifully stained eye of a fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, in great detail.

Karin Panser is working in the lab of Andrew Straw at the IMP Vienna on visual behaviour in Drosophila: “I studied Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna and I have been working as Research Assistant at the Institute of Molecular Pathology since then, almost 3 years now.” Her studies require detailed images of fluorescently labelled proteins in the fly brain, captured with a confocal microscope and processed and analysed with software from SVI: “I am using confocal microscopy and Huygens software from SVI for deconvolution on a regular basis. As we study neuronal circuits, an essential part of our research is to look at neuronal morphology and polarity and to try and find neurons that are connected to each other. Therefore we take detailed images of the fly brain, starting from the retina along to the central brain and further on to the ventral nerve cord of the fly, where motor neurons connect to muscles,” Panser explains.

“We are interested in understanding how the fly processes visual information on a neuronal level, how the fly processes complex visual input and translates that into a specific coordinated behaviour. We combine fly genetics with behavioural experiments in various virtual reality set-ups and neuroanatomical analyses,” she adds.

For the Huygens Image Contest 2013, Karin Panser submitted an image of colourful Drosophila ommatidia, stained for cadherin (red) and the photoreceptor cell-specific membrane protein, chaoptin (green), in intricate detail. Needless to say, Panser won the competition with ease, relegating her competition, Ulrike Engel from the Nikon Imaging Center, BioQuant Institute, Heidelberg, Germany, and Matthew Mitschelen from the Reynolds Oklahoma Center on Aging, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, USA, to second and third place, respectively. Panser summarises the process for capturing the picture: “Practically, it requires microdissection of the Drosophila eye, immunolabelling with antibodies, confocal imaging and processing and analysis with Huygens software, which in total took around a week to complete.”

Besides the honour of winning an international image competition, Panser's image was used as the cover picture on the Christmas cards of SVI, and the Austrian researcher also received a brand-new tablet.

Klaudia Weber

Image: K. Panser




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