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Oxford scientist shortlisted in national science image competition

British Heart Foundation reveals outstanding images from its ground-breaking research.

A scientist from the University of Oxford has been shortlisted in the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) annual ‘Reflections of Research’ 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.

Developing heart of a mouse embryo captured using an electron microscope
Credit: Xin Sun, University of Oxford, British Heart Foundation – Reflections of Research

‘Texture of a heart’ was submitted by Dr Xin Sun, a post-doctoral researcher from the University of Oxford. In this image we can see the developing heart of a mouse embryo captured using an electron microscope (left) and a laser microscope (right).

In the black and white image we can see here how cells in a developing heart don’t form a smooth surface. To capture the image on the right cells in the heart were stained with two coloured markers, which were revealed under laser light. Cell nuclei can be seen in red while cell boundaries are highlighted in green. 

These red and green cell boundaries show how some cells huddle together in small structures and form strong connections with their neighbours, while other cells end up alone. As the heart continues to develop these lonely cells will dive into the heart and move towards the inner layers to find stronger connections and help the heart grow. 

Dr Xin Sun said: “It’s fantastic to be shortlisted in the BHF’s reflections of research competition and to have our work highlighted like this.”

“In our lab we’re investigating how the heart develops during pregnancy to help us understand how we could support it to repair and regenerate in adulthood. Learning more about how cells move in the developing heart will help us to understand how we can re-activate this process to help the heart to heal if it becomes damaged, such as during a heart attack.”

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