heroAll fat and bones - Lauren Eades

Newly born blood vessels win British Heart Foundation photography prize

Research to heal hearts triumphs in the British Heart Foundation's science image competition.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has just announced the winner of its annual Reflections of Research science image competition. Where science and art collide, the competition challenges BHF-funded scientists to showcase their state-of-the-art heart and circulatory disease research through the generation of captivating images.

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Dr Neil Dufton, Lecturer in Inflammatory Sciences at Queen Mary University of London, was this year’s guest judge. He said:

“All of the images shortlisted in this year’s competition offer a stunning glimpse into the cutting-edge work being carried out by BHF scientists. 

“The winning image is truly eye-catching. The chaotic mixture of different cells around the outside contrasts perfectly with a ‘through the looking glass’ moment where we see new, and exquisitely detailed, blood vessels forming in the centre.”

Here are the winners and the shortlisted images:

Judges’ winner – Recreating heart blood vessels

Although at first glance it appears to resemble a luminous jelly fish, this image shows new blood vessel-like structures (pictured in green) sprouting from a 3D gel. These structures were created using a mixture of two types of heart cell. Encouraging new blood vessels to form after a heart attack to replace those that have died could help to re-establish blood supply to damaged areas of the heart and aid recovery. Credit: Elisa Avolio, University of Bristol, British Heart Foundation – Reflections of Research
Although at first glance it appears to resemble a luminous jelly fish, this image shows new blood vessel-like structures (pictured in green) sprouting from a 3D gel. These structures were created using a mixture of two types of heart cell. Encouraging new blood vessels to form after a heart attack to replace those that have died could help to re-establish blood supply to damaged areas of the heart and aid recovery. Photo by Elisa Avolio/University of Bristol/British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research

Supporters’ Favourite – Biodegradable microspheres for healing hearts 

This image shows a microsphere, a tiny object (just quarter of a millimeter wide) made from biodegradable material. Researchers are using microspheres to grow cells and give them a better chance of surviving in the heart. Human stem cell-derived heart cells are cultured on the surface of the microspheres, where they stick to the surface and make connections with their neighbours. The microspheres can then be easily injected into the heart to deliver cells directly to damaged tissue. Credit: Annalisa Bettini, University College London, British Heart Foundation – Reflections of Research
This image shows a microsphere, a tiny object (just quarter of a millimetre wide) made from biodegradable material. Researchers are using microspheres to grow cells and give them a better chance of surviving in the heart. Human stem cell-derived heart cells are cultured on the surface of the microspheres, where they stick to the surface and make connections with their neighbours. The microspheres can then be easily injected into the heart to deliver cells directly to damaged tissue. Photo by Annalisa Bettini/University College London/British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research

Shortlisted – A renal reflection

This image shows the blood vessels of the kidney, captured using a CT scanner. The branching reflection was inspired by reflecting pools from around the world. The heart and the kidneys work closely with one another. Heart disease can impact the blood supply to the kidneys, which in turn can cause kidney disease. Similarly, kidney disease can alter hormone levels, which in turn can change blood pressure, causing heart disease. Credit: Natalie North and Joanna Koch-Paszkowski, University of Leeds, British Heart Foundation – Reflections of Research
This is not actually a tree, but in fact blood vessels of the kidney captured using a CT scanner. The branching reflection was inspired by reflecting pools from around the world. The heart and the kidneys work closely with one another. Heart disease can impact the blood supply to the kidneys, which in turn can cause kidney disease. Similarly, kidney disease can alter hormone levels, which in turn can change blood pressure, causing heart disease. Photo by Natalie North and Joanna Koch-Paszkowski/University of Leeds/British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research

Shortlisted – All fat and bones

This image shows a vibrant network of blood vessels (red) and fat (green) within the bone marrow of a mouse with peripheral vascular disease. New blood cells (blue) are made in the bone marrow, a spongy tissue in the middle of your bones. However here the peripheral vascular disease has caused regions of the bone marrow dedicated to blood cell production to be replaced by fatty deposits. Credit: Lauren Eades, University of Leeds, British Heart Foundation – Reflections of Research
A vibrant network of blood vessels (red) and fat (green) within the bone marrow of a mouse with peripheral vascular disease has been expertly captured in this image. New blood cells (blue) are made in the bone marrow, a spongy tissue in the middle of your bones. However here the peripheral vascular disease has caused regions of the bone marrow dedicated to blood cell production to be replaced by fatty deposits. Photo by Lauren Eades/University of Leeds/British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research

Shortlisted – Texture of a heart

Texture of a heart - Xin Sun
A developing heart of a mouse embryo has been captured using an electron microscope (left) and a laser microscope (right). In the black and white image we can see how cells in a developing heart don’t form a smooth surface. To capture the image on the right cells were stained with two coloured markers; red to visualise nuclei, and green to highlight cell boundaries. These red and green cell boundaries show how some cells huddle together in small structures and form strong connections with their neighbours. Other cells end up alone and will dive into the heart to find stronger connections as it continues to develop. Photo by Xin Sun/University of Oxford/British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research

Shortlisted – Stuck on you

Stuck on you - Beth Webb
The flower-like red shapes in this image are platelets, the smallest of our blood cells. Platelets stick together when they recognise a damaged blood vessel, forming a blood clot and helping to stop bleeding. However, if platelets become over-active they can cause excess clotting, which can cause conditions like heart attacks and strokes. Capturing images like this can help to identify changes in over-active platelets compared with healthy ones. Photo by Beth Webb/University of Leeds/British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research

Shortlisted – The way to the heart is through the stomach

Imaris Snapshot
The image shows a network of blood vessels in fat, which make a heart shaped impression within the network. Many of these blood vessels are thinner than a strand of hair. To create this image the researcher collected hundreds of images from thinly sliced mouse tissue sections then stitched these back together to generate a complete 3D image of all the blood vessels. Images of blood vessels can help researchers to visualise the damage caused by diabetes and see if new treatments are able to repair them. Photo by Michael Drozd/University of Leeds/British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research

Shortlisted – Fused together

multiple lung cells that have joined together to create large virus-infected cells. This abnormal cell fusion is triggered when the COVID-19 virus infects healthy cells, causing them to become infected and display the COVID-19 spike protein on their surface. This prompts a series of events that causes infected cells to reach out and fuse with neighbouring cells. Credit: Mauro Giacca, King’s College London, British Heart Foundation – Reflections of Research
Multiple lung cells are pictured having joined together to create large virus-infected cells. This abnormal cell fusion is triggered when the COVID-19 virus infects healthy cells, causing them to become infected and display the COVID-19 spike protein on their surface. This prompts a series of events that causes infected cells to reach out and fuse with neighbouring cells. Photo by Mauro Giacca/King’s College London/British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research

Check out some more of our great image galleries:

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Shortlisted – Silent genes

This image shows egg-shaped nuclei in a thin slice of heart tissue from a mouse embryo. The nuclei contain the cell’s instruction manual, DNA, which includes instructions for making proteins. The speckled dots pictured are proteins that can bind to DNA to switch genes off and reduce their activity. Credit: Jacob Ross, King’s College London, British Heart Foundation – Reflections of Research
This image shows egg-shaped nuclei in a thin slice of heart tissue from a mouse embryo. The nuclei contain the cell’s instruction manual, DNA, which includes instructions for making proteins. The speckled dots pictured are proteins that can bind to DNA to switch genes off and reduce their activity. Photo by Jacob Ross/King’s College London/British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research

Shortlisted – A storm is brewing in the broken heart

Lit up like the earth viewed from space, this image shows a scar in the heart that forms after a heart attack. The body creates this scar, made of collagen, to repair damage to the heart sustained during the heart attack. Different types of collagen are seen in red, yellow and green, with the initial scar in red and yellow on the left of the image. Moving from left to right we see more green collagen, which represents the scar expanding into undamaged tissue. Credit: Victoria Reid and Kali Pandya, University of Edinburgh, British Heart Foundation – Reflections of Research
Lit up like the Earth viewed from space, this image shows a scar in the heart that forms after a heart attack. The body creates this scar, made of collagen, to repair damage to the heart sustained during the heart attack. Different types of collagen are seen in red, yellow and green, with the initial scar in red and yellow on the left of the image. Moving from left to right we see more green collagen, which represents the scar expanding into undamaged tissue. Photo by Victoria Reid and Kali Pandya/University of Edinburgh/British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research

Shortlisted – Atrial digital twins

Atrial digital twins - Caroline Roney
The process of recreating a digital replica of the atria (the upper chambers of the heart) of three patients is captured in this fantastic image. This is used to visualise conditions where the heart beats irregularly, like atrial fibrillation. Starting with images captured from MRI scans (far-left column), more detailed information is added to the images as we move from left to right to look at different aspects of the structure and function of the heart. This allows the researchers to find critical regions to target (final column) during treatments to try to restore a normal heartbeat. Photo by Caroline Roney/King’s College London/British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research