When I made the decision to start NeuroBead, I began to browse the internet for some inspiring images of neuronal cells in culture. The perfect picture had to meet several criteria. It had to be colorful, bright and vibrant, scientifically accurate and detailed, and yet simple enough to make in my first attempt. For my first piece I chose an image of astrocyte and neuronal co-culture.
The two cell types were labeled with red and green fluorescent markers and were also easily distinguishable by their distinctive cell shapes. I was determined to turn confocal microscopy on its head and convert an ultra-flat image into a three-dimensional rendering. In the interest of injecting some creativity into the process, I made my own interpretation of the image, drawing on my experience of culturing these cells in the lab.
While I was happy with how it turned out, the convex protrusions of cell bodies did not seem like enough for me. I wanted to see if I could create a completely three-dimensional, free-floating cell. Moreover, I wanted it to have a solid three dimensional nucleus. So this is where I started.
My initial intention was to make a neuron, as I consider these to be my favorite cells. Their slender morphology never seizes to amaze me. But, as the cell body began to grow, it appeared to take on a shape of a lustrous astrocyte.
I have always been attracted to symmetry, and while cells in culture are almost never symmetrical, I wanted this artwork to fit into a square frame, just like the majority of pictures we take under a confocal microscope. However, keeping with my theme of science reaching beyond its limits, this cell was not constrained by its frame and extended its processes outward, to sense the world beyond its immediate reach.
I am very happy to say that “The Royal Astrocyte” was purchased last week by a fellow scientist and I am very grateful to my very first customer!