Nature is beautiful. As Richard Feynman, one of the greatest minds in physics, nicely worded it: “…nature, it’s there, and she’s going to come out the way she is”, even if she sometimes comes out with professional laboratory health scientists taking photos of apparent Cookie Monsters found in their cell samples.
This fun, new trend of #pathart, short for ‘pathology art’, taking Twitter by storm (www.twitter.com/hashtag/pathart) gives a quirky insight into the unusually shaped cell samples that some laboratory scientists stumble upon.
Mostly hash-tagged by histologists (scientists who study anatomy of animal and plant cells and tissues), #pathart is a result of the psychological phenomenon in humans known as pareidolia- the experience of perceiving recognisable patterns, that in fact do not exist. It is thanks to this phenomenon that people can appreciate the faces on Mars and My Little Ponies in ovarian cancer cells.
So here is a collection of pH7’s seven most beloved #pathart images:
#7: I HEART YOU
Starting with an adorable message from the blood vessel tissues, the following photomicrograph shows a dissected artery folded into the shape of a heart and veins creasing into letters I and U.
From secondary school biology, you may recall that arteries pump the blood away (Arteries = Away) from the heart to the body’s extremities whilst the veins are structured to force blood back towards the heart, hence the differences in apparent tissue structures.
#6: DANCING ALIEN
Next up, is a Purkinje cell establishing a contact with @mutyabernardomd from a brain tissue sample.
The Purkinje fibers are simply large nerve cells that tend to have many branching extensions; they are important in coordinating movements of various body parts.
Damaged Purkinje cells can result in inhibition of these normally controlled movements, and have been shown to cause various neurological diseases.
#5: TUSKEN RAIDER
Continuing with the science-fiction theme, @zenonich came across a sample of liver tissues screeching as one of Star Wars character- the Tusken Raider.
Tissues forming the head of this outlander are in fact liver portal triads, which are connections of branched blood vessels located in the liver. These blood vessels acts as crucial gateways to the circulating blood that carry essential nutrients to the appropriate cells in the liver.
#4: MY LITTLE PONY
Believe it or not, but @emarbv found this photo of an innocent cartoon unicorn galloping through a sample of cancerous ovarian cells.
Each year, around 7,100 women in the UK are diagnosed with this unfortunate condition and despite its frequency, the exact cause of this condition still is not fully understood. However, as with all cancers, ovarian cancer is a result of a change in the cell DNA sequence, namely a mutation- not so cute.
#3: STARRY SKY: the “Histology Remix”
Continuing with the topic of female reproductive system, IHeartHisto used stained ovarian cells at 10x magnification as a background to the original Vincent van Gogh’s famous Starry Sky foreground to create this impressive blend of art and histology. The largest globules seen in this fertile background are actually follicles, fluid filled ‘sacks’ that contain tiny female egg cells within them. Very impressionist.
#2: COOKIE MONSTER
Yes, @DoctorChrisVT found The Cookie Monster grinning in an electron micrograph image created by firing beams of electrons through a sample of Schwann cells. Interestingly, Schwann cells wrap themselves around ‘unwrapped’ nerve cells to form a so called myelin sheath around them. This ‘wrapping’ allows a more efficient transmission of nerve impulses across the nervous system where it’s required.
However, in this electron micrograph, it appears that Schwann cells (outlining the mouth) are in a state of engulfing, rather than wrapping the unfortunate nerve cells (outlining the eyes). Someone should have given those Schwann cells some cookies.
#1: SAM THE EAGLE
And my TOP favourite #pathart image is… Sam the Eagle from Muppets, promoting America even in the embryonic stage of development! Although not quite so blue, this image in fact shows an upside down head of an embryo, where Sam’s eyes are actually a developing jawbone, his nose is a tongue in the making and its chin is a growing bone of the upper part of the mouth.
If this isn’t the most recognisable #pathart photo, then I don’t know what is.