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Phase Contrast Microscopy

Image Gallery

The Molecular Expressions gallery of phase contrast photomicrography contains a large collection of images taken under a wide variety of conditions using specimens ranging from fossilized dinosaur bones to soft tissues from human and plant pathology. Use the links below to navigate to the individual entries in this colorful gallery.

Agatized Dinosaur Bone - Fossilized dinosaur bones are found in a variety of forms depending on how they have been petrified. Most dinosaur bones have been petrified with calcium giving them a stony appearance and texture. Agatized bones are petrified with silica, or quartz crystals, giving them a colorful, glassy appearance.

Allosaurus: The Leaping Reptile - This aggressive dinosaur lived during the Jurassic era, predating the fierce Tyrannosaurus rex by millions of years.

Amphibian Red Blood Cells - Unlike mammalian red blood cells, those from amphibians (frogs and salamanders) and avians (birds) contain a DNA-bearing nucleus.

Amphioxus (Lancelet) - Amphioxus, also called lancelet, is a small marine animal resembling a miniature fish without eyes (or even a head), which is found widely in coastal waters around warmer parts of the world.

Apple Scab (Venturia inaequalis) - Apple scab is one of the most serious diseases of apple trees and occurs wherever apples are grown. It can also infect crab apple and mountain-ash trees.

Bird Skin (Epidermis) - Birds have a thin and delicate epidermis, or skin, compared to other vertebrates. Their skin produces specialized structures called feathers, which is one of the unique characteristics of birds.

Black Grape Rot - Black rot, caused by the fungus Guignardia bidwellii is one of the most serious diseases of cultivated grapes in the eastern United States.

Black Knot (Apiosporina morbosa) - Gall formation is a side effect of infection by this fungus, which attacks plum, apricot, peach, cherry and ornamental trees.

Black Lung Disease (Anthracosis) - Black Lung Disease is a form of pneumoconiosis, a condition caused by the habitual inhalation of irritants, coal dust in this case. Early stages of the disease are known as anthracosis, which is a slow-acting, chronic disease that takes one or two decades to cause symptoms, but its effects can be severely disabling, causing pulmonary emphysema or chronic bronchitis.

Bronchial Pneumonia - Most often caused by common pathogens such as influenza and streptococcus, this disease still ranks as one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States.

Bronchiogenic Carcinoma - Bronchiogenic carcinoma, or lung cancer, is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and most of the developed world.

Butterfly Wing Scales - The wings of butterflies and moths are covered with microscopic scales that help waterproof the flight gear and add color to the insect.

Cabbage Club Root - Wilted, yellowing leaves and stunted plants can often signal an infection of club root in cruciferous plants such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, causing significant economic losses to farmers.

Camarasaurus: Chambered Lizard - Camarasaurs were dinosaurs commonly found in North America during the late Jurassic period, 163 to 144 million years ago. They belonged to the Sauropod family of dinosaurs, the largest animals that ever lived on land, which included the well-known Apatosaurus (formerly known as brontosaurus).

Cedar Apple Rust - This fungal infection, with a complex life cycle, affects apple trees in North America.

Chinese Hamster Ovary Cells - Cells in tissue culture are used extensively in cellular molecular biology and genetics research. Chinese hamster ovary cells are among the most heavily employed tissue culture models for a wide variety of research arenas.

Chronic Pneumonia - Also known as Loeffler's syndrome or eosinophilic pneumonia, chronic pneumonia is a rare disorder that is considered to be the result of an allergic reaction or reaction to parasites.

Coronary Atherosclerosis - Atherosclerosis is a form of arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which results from the gradual build-up of cholesterol and calcifications (plaque) inside the arteries.

Cooked Meat - Wondering what that hamburger you are about to eat looks like under the microscope? Follow this link for a close-up view of meat tissue that has been cooked, sectioned, stained, and imaged with phase contrast optics.

Desmids - These beautiful single-celled algae are found in ponds and marshes throughout the world. Desmids are often bright green in color from the high concentration of internal chloroplasts.

Diabetes Mellitus - Known since antiquity, diabetes mellitus is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.

Down Feathers - Vanes and barbs from the ubiquitous down feather are highlighted in this photomicrograph prepared from a stained specimen illuminated with phase contrast optics.

Downy Mildew of Grape - Grape vines infected with this common malady produce fruit low in sugar content and unsuitable for commercial or domestic use.

Earthworm Clitellum - The earthworm or night crawler, known scientifically as Lumbricus terrestris, inhabits all areas of the planet ranging from Iceland to Australia.

Earthworm Testes and Ovaries - Earthworms are simultaneous hermaphrodites, with each worm having complete male and female reproductive systems that include both testes and ovaries.

Ergot (Claviceps purpurea) - This parasitic fungus, which affects grains such as wheat, barley, and oats, but most readily attacks rye and triticale, has played a prominent, if notorious, role in human history.

Fish Cycloid Scales - Scales, divided into several categories on the basis of composition and structure, provide protection from the environment and predators and are found on almost all fish. Fish scales are formed from skeletal elements (bone) that emerge from the dermal layer of skin.

Fish Gills - Fish gotta swim but they gotta breathe too. Unlike land vertebrates or marine mammals, they don't have lungs, but they do have paired respiratory structures called gills, also called branchia.

Fish Skin - In addition to its probable role in swimming dynamics, fish skin contains pigment patterns that are effectively utilized to provide camouflage, attract mates, and ward off predators.

Frog Skin - Frogs and the other amphibians, such as toads and salamanders, have unique skin characteristics among vertebrates. Unlike fish, reptiles, or birds, most amphibians don't have tough, horny scales that function to keep out the elements.

Hadrosaurus: Duck-Billed Dinosaur - This unusual dinosaur was equipped with a large crest on its head that scientists believe enabled the creature to communicate.

House Fly Eye - Compound eyes are standard equipment on most insects. Here, the common house fly eye is dissected and photographed with phase contrast illumination.

House Fly Mouthparts - Although some flies can bite, the house fly can't. Its mouthparts are made of soft, spongy structures called a labella and a proboscis. The labella gently dabs liquids into the proboscis, which then sucks up the liquid. If the fly encounters solid food it wants to eat, it drops saliva onto it, turning the food into a liquid.

House Fly Wings - Insect wings are thought to have evolved from a gill-like thoracic segment present in early insects, which enabled insects to increase the area available for finding food, shelter, and for breeding.

Human Bone - Bone is a living tissue composed principally of collagen and calcium phosphate. At the microscopic level, it consists of hardened material interspersed with one or more of four different bone cell types, osteoblasts, osteocytes, osteoclasts, and undifferentiated bone mesenchymal cells.

Human Bone Sarcoma - The beautiful patterns displayed by micrographs of cancer thin sections are in direct contrast to the devastation produced by this often deadly disease.

Human Breast Adenocarcinoma - Examination of stained human breast tissue using phase contrast optics produces an enhancement of cellular features present in the tissue.

Human Scar Tissue - Cut or pierce the skin and the body responds immediately with repair crews of specialized cells for a three-stage rebuilding operation.

Human Tattoos - Dating back to pre-historic periods, the art of tattooing human flesh is experiencing a dramatic surge in popularity, with more women acquiring this body art than ever before.

Human Tongue - The primary function of the tongue in mammals is to provide a mechanism for taste. As a muscle the tongue is also important as a means of creating the negative pressure necessary for infants to suckle, an exclusively mammalian activity.

Hydatid Disease - Also called echinococcal disease or hydatidosis, hydatid disease is caused by the larval form of the tapeworm parasite, Echinococcus granulosus. The adult Echinococcus tapeworm parasitizes dogs and other canines, but requires an intermediate host (sheep, cattle, goats, wild ruminants, pigs, or humans) to complete its life cycle. The genus has a worldwide distribution, but there is considerable variation amongst the species, with differing preferences for intermediate hosts.

Hydra Nematocysts - Hydras are tiny, simple invertebrates commonly studied by beginning biology students. Nematocysts are produced by nematoblasts, or cnidoblasts, and are used for capturing and paralyzing prey or for defense. Each nematocyst contains a coiled, hollow thread that can have barbs or spines and often contains poison.

Keloid Scars - A keloid is a greatly enlarged scar that grows beyond its original boundaries to the point of appearing like a tumor. While not dangerous or life threatening, keloid scars may itch, cause pain or be tender to the touch.

Liver Cirrhosis - Anything that damages liver cells can cause cirrhosis, such as chemical toxins, severe malnutrition, viruses, or metabolic disorders. Damaged or dead liver cells are replaced by fibrous scar tissue, leading to a breakdown in liver function and eventually resulting in liver failure and death.

Lymph Node Carcinoma - Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which works with the circulatory system essentially as an auxiliary janitorial and security service for the body. There are two main groups of lymphomas, Hodgkin's Disease and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Mammalian Cartilage - Cartilage is a dense network of collagen fibers, embedded in a firm but plastic-like gelatinous substance, covered by a membrane called the perichondrium. The primary function of cartilage in mammals is to form a model for later growth of the bony skeleton, but some parts of the skeleton will retain the cartilage form into adulthood.

Metridium - This genus of sea anemone is common throughout the world's oceans. The plumose anemone, Metridium senile, is found off both coasts of North America and is often used as a specimen for dissection in the classroom. It is usually white but also occurs as tan, brown, or orange.

Mosasaurus Vertebrae - During the Cretaceous era, 145 to 65 million years ago, these large, carnivorous, marine reptiles dominated the oceans of the world, hunting for ammonites, fish, and cuttlefish.

Multipolar Neurons - A typical human brain contains over 100 billion neurons, about 10 percent of the total number of cells in the entire nervous system. Neurons, the primary cells of nervous tissue, are divided into several categories. One of these categories includes multipolar neurons, which have branching axons.

Obelia Hydroid: First Generation - The first obelia generation, illustrated in the photomicrograph in this section, lives in hydroid colonies, consisting of polyps. The polyps are stalklike forms that attach to a surface (usually ocean bottom) by means of rootlike filaments.

Obelia Medusa: Second Generation - The second generation of the obelia life cycle begins when the medusae are released by the gonozooids and become free swimming forms. The medusae reproduce sexually, producing eggs and sperm that fertilize to become ciliated larvae (planulae).

Paramecium - Single-celled protozoans are commonly found in stagnant fresh water throughout the world. This specimen was rescued from a pond in Tallahassee, Florida.

Peach Brown Rot - Attacking peaches and other fruit, this fungal disease can cause devastation of crops both in the field and at the marketplace.

Pleurodira: Side-Necked and Snake-Necked Turtles - Fossils recovered from this now-extinct turtle reveal details about the anatomy and physiology of this ancient reptile.

Pollen - Mobile plant gametes are an important aspect of the reproduction scheme for most plants. Pollen serves both to fertilize plants and to stimulate the immune response of susceptible humans.

Potato Blight - Caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans, potato blight has been one of the most widespread agricultural maladies in the history of mankind.

Pulmonary Emphysema - Emphysema is one of the most common and crippling of respiratory diseases, and it is incurable. Along with chronic bronchitis and asthma, it is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 25,000 people a year.

Radiolarians - These microscopic sea creatures date back millions of years and often are useful in dating ocean sediments.

Raw Meat - For millions of years, the human diet has included the edible portion of animal tissues, or meat. Meat is an excellent source of protein, providing all nine essential amino acids in addition to vitamins and minerals.

Rotifers - Rotifers were first discovered in the 1600s by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, one of the first microscopists to study and describe microscopic organisms. Historically referred to as the Wheel Animalcule or Wheel Animal, rotifers were named for the shimmering rings of tiny beating cilia that draw food into their mouths.

Sebaceous Cysts - A sebaceous cyst occurs when keratin-producing glands in the skin become clogged, causing the gland to enlarge. Also referred to as a wen, epidermal cyst, or pilar cyst, it is caused by plugged ducts in malformed hair follicles and generally requires no medical treatment.

Snake Skin - Contrary to popular belief snake skin is dry, not slimy (with the exception of newly born or hatched snakes), but consists entirely of overlapping scales, specialized folds of skin, that provide protection from the environment and from predators.

Sponge Skeleton - Sponges have an ancient lineage and are one of the first multicellular organisms to have occupied the Earth's oceans during the Cambrian period, 505-545 million years ago. Fossils found recently in China indicate that the sponges were well established in the Precambrian Period, at least 600 million years ago.

Squamous Cell Papilloma - Papillomas, also known as warts or corns, are benign (noncancerous) growths of the skin or mucous membranes and are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPVs are very common and are only able to infect the epithelium of the skin.

Starfish Arms - Starfish typically have five arms, or rays, but there are species with as few as three or as many as fifty. Arms occur in a variety of sizes and shapes, depending on the species. The sea bat (Patiria miniata), which is found from Alaska to Mexico, has webbed arms.

Starfish Testes - Starfish, or sea stars, are perhaps one of the most familiar of marine organisms and are practically a symbol of ocean life. Despite their name, they are echinoderms not fish and breathe through structures on their skin, not through gills.

Stomach Cancer - Until the end of World War II, stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer or gastric carcinoma, was one of the leading cancer killers in the United States.

Tapeworm (Taenia pisiformis) - Taenia pisiformis is one of several parasitic tapeworms that infect dogs, which are the definitive, or primary, host with rabbits most often serving as the intermediate host. Adult tapeworms live attached to the intestinal walls of their canine host. The life cycle stage that is found in the intermediate host is the cysticercus, or bladder worm, a larval form that lives encysted in muscle tissue.

Tilia (Basswood) Two Year Stem - The American Basswood, Tilia americana, is a treasured hardwood tree of the Eastern and Central United States. It has a tall, straight trunk and rounded crown that provides excellent shade during the hot summer months.

Tobacco Blue Mold - Caused by the fungus Peronospora tabacina, this plant disease affects only tobacco plants.

Tobacco Mosaic Virus - The rod-like RNA virus is devastating to tobacco crops, and it has also proven useful to molecular biologists as a tool to help understand many complex topics in viral genetics.

Tracheid Cells - Tracheids are nonliving cells found in the xylem of the more ancient plant types, seedless vascular plants (ferns, club mosses, and horsetails) and gymnosperms (cedar, pine, and cypress trees). These long tubular structures have walls that are made stiff by a combination of cellulose and lignin, a chemical binder.

Uterine Adenomyosis - A benign but sometimes painful disease of the uterus, adenomyosis typically affects women between the ages of 40 and 50. Although many cases are asymptomatic, some result in abnormal uterine bleeding and enlargement of the uterus.

Wheat Rust Pustule - Captured exploding from the leaf of a wheat plant, this pustule is the result of an infection by the fungus Puccinia graminis.

Wheat Rust Spermogonia - Wheat rust, a plant disease affecting wheat in the United States and in other wheat-growing areas of the world, is caused by a parasitic fungus.

White Pine Blister Rust - Imported from Siberia and Asia, this fungal infection managed to wipe out huge forests of pine trees in the early twentieth century.

White Rust of Crucifers (Albugo candida) - Also known as staghead, white rust is a disease that infects cruciferous plants (such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale) wherever they occur in the world.


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