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This micrograph of a zebra fish brain was a finalist in Nikon´s annual Small World Competition, a contest among professionals and amateurs in the field of light microscopy, the craft of imaging small items with visible light. Here, the fish´s embryonic brain glows because of fluorescent molecules that bind to specific proteins in the tissue. Long, message-carrying axons of neurons shine blue, while a specific form of a protein called tuberin radiates red.

Scientists use zebra fish to study vertebrate development because they are often cheaper and easier to work with than mice or chicks. The researcher who shot this image, biologist Michael Hendricks of the Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory in Singapore, is investigating tuberin´s role in forming connections between neurons. The study is of particular interest because tuberin plays a role in a genetic disease that causes benign tumors in humans.

For more images from the Small World Competition, launch the gallery here.

by Courtesy Nikon Small World

Hydrophilidae sp. (water scavenger beetle) larva, magnified 100x. Photograph by Charles Krebs

by Courtesy Nikon Small World

Xenopus embryos (frog), magnified 20x. Photograph by Michael Klymkowsky

by Courtesy Nikon Small World

Antique microscope slide featuring thin section of diseased ivory, magnified 15x. Photograph by Dr. Stephen Nagy

by Courtesy Nikon Small World

Papaver subpiriforme (corn poppies) flower bud, magnified 20x. Photograph by Shamuel Silberman

by Courtesy Nikon Small World

A double transgenic mouse embryo at 18.5 days, magnified 17x. Photograph by Gloria Kwon

by Courtesy Nikon Small World

Testudinella patina (a rotifer), magnified 400x. Photograph by Wim van Egmond__

by Courtesy Nikon Small World

Erpobdella octoculata (fresh water leech), magnified 25x. Photograph by Vera Hunnekuhl

by Courtesy Nikon Small World

Marine diatoms attached to Polysiphonia (red algae), magnified 100x. Photograph by Charles Krebs

by Courtesy Nikon Small World

Seawater with mixed zooplankton and needle eye, 20x. Photograph by Peter Parks

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