This scanning electron microscope image of the tarsal claw of the horsefly Tabanus sulcifrons juxtaposes the complexity and simplicity of “nature’s Velcro.” The menacing sturdiness of the tarsal claws contrasts with the delicate nature of the tarsal pad, with fine, hooked hairs that allow the fly to hold on to animal fur.
Image credit: Valerie A. Tornini, Duke University
Needless to say, microscopy has progressed radically since Leeuwenhoek first observed his “animalcules” through lenses.
It is now possible to dissect cells into their various microscopic components, aiding not only in modeling and visualisation but also treatment and the advancement of research. In the image above, scientists used a technique called stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) to peer deeper into a kidney cell. Objects of interest – in this case a protein called actin involved in cell movement – are tagged with fluorescent markers, which light up under laser light. This composite image is formed from 230,000 frames and is detailed enough to illuminate individual actin fibres, which are less than a millionth of a centimetre thick. Such high resolution can reveal the effects of a disease or a genetic fault in the finest detail - advancing research and treatment to a whole new level simply through the power of visualisation.