CHICAGO — They may look like works of modern art, but these microscopic pictures are the winners and runners-up in the Endocrine Images competition. The endocrine system in animals consists of the tissue that makes and releases hormones into the bloodstream and are all controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain.
The study of endocrines can help treat everything from diabetes and obesity to infertility, bone health, and hormone-related cancers. To further our understanding of this mysterious system, the Endocrine Society, which has 18,000 members in 122 countries, has a picture competition to bring to life the area they study. The contest celebrates the beauty of endocrine science, and entries are judged based on aesthetic value and significance to endocrine research.
Dr. Anzela Niraula of the University of Washington in Seattle won this year’s competition for her image of the microglia mandala. The image shows green microglia and grey POMC neurons in close proximity within the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus in the brain. The regulation of POMC neurons holds significant implications for both obesity and diabetes.
There were joint runners-up, with a team from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Northwestern University in Chicago sharing second place.
Led by Dr. Sally Camper, her team from Michigan presented a multicolored slice from the pituitary gland of a mouse embryo.
The gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism, fertility, growth, and the stress response. The stem cells are green, the pituitary transcription factor PROP1 is red, and where its expression overlaps with SOX2 is in yellow.
Joint second place winner was Dr. Aubrey Converse from Northwestern University with what looks like a space donut — but is actually an ovarian follicle in a mouse.
Honorable mentions include the beautiful pale pinks of a small nodule from the thyroid gland by Dima Abdelmannan at the Dubai Academic Health Corporation.
Looking like a four-leaf clover, Jeff Huang and Sophia Zheng from Auburn University in Alabama were also mentioned for their picture of the adrenal gland inner cortex.
Also, this multicolored spotty perched owl, otherwise known as a pancreatic islet, also received a mention for Rachel Reinert at the University of Michigan.
South West News Service writer Jim Leffman contributed to this report.