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Two King's scientists win Wellcome Image Award for second year in a row

Posted on 16/03/2016

For the second year in a row, two scientists from King’s College London have been shortlisted as winners of the 15th Wellcome Image Awards, which annually showcases the best in science image making.

The winners were two of 20 shortlisted images formally awarded at a ceremony last night and have been judged by a panel that includes experts in science communication, medicine and biomedical science.

The first of the two shortlisted images was produced by third-time Wellcome Image Award winner Dr Khuloud Al-Jamal, Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, alongside PhD students Izzat Suffian, Kuo-Ching Mei and Houmam Kafa. Previous winning images of Dr Al-Jamal’s team were scanning electron micrographs of an astrocyte (2015) and cancer cells (2014) treated with nanomedicines .

This year’s winning image is a transmission electron micrograph of two rod-shaped bacteria sitting on an extremely thin sheet of carbon (purple). 

Wellcome image 1

Bacteria on graphene oxide

This material (graphene) is one of the thinnest, strongest materials that has ever been discovered. Researchers are investigating how it could be used to carry medicines to the right place in the body when needed. Each bacterium pictured is approximately two micrometres (0.002 mm) in length.

Dr Khuloud Al-Jamal commented: ‘This image does not only describe vividly the work we do to develop new materials for biomedical applications, but it is also a true representation of the interdisciplinary approach we adopt from designing novel materials to tackling unmet health problems.’ 

The second winning image was produced by Dr Sílvia A Ferreira, Cristina Lopo and Dr Eileen Gentleman, Dental Institute, and depicts a single human stem cell, which has a natural ability to repair damaged tissue and can divide to produce some of the different cells found in the body. This image was also the selected image for the Koch Institute gallery.

Wellcome image 2

Human stem cell

The stem cell is from inside the hip bone of a healthy person who donated some bone marrow to help treat patients who develop complications after receiving a marrow transplant. The cell is sitting in a mixture of chemicals designed to mimic its natural environment, so that researchers can better understand how it interacts with its surroundings.

Describing the image, Dr Silvia Ferreira said: ‘Our idea was to first captivate the viewer with a beautiful image, and then surprise him/her with the image’s real content. Very few scanning electron microscopy images exist of human stem cells embedded within a hydrogel matrix, so it is not often one can visualise the cell and a biomaterial matrix at the same time.’  

The Wellcome Image Awards are the Wellcome Trust’s most eye-catching celebration of science, medicine and life. The Awards recognise the creators of the most informative, striking and technically excellent images that communicate significant aspects of biomedical science.

Exhibitions of the winning images will open simultaneously on 16 March 2016 in venues across the UK, Europe and Africa. For more information, visit the Wellcome Image Awards website:

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