Despite their celestial appearance, all of the orbs in this image are zebrafish embryos. Each pinprick spot, whether white in the moon-like images or blue or green in the Earth-like one, represents a single cell that is bustling with a specific type of growth factor signaling. “In the Mullins lab, the zebrafish (our model organism) is our world,” said Francesca Tuazon, who created this winning image in the graduate student category of the 2018 Perelman School of Medicine “Art of Science” competition.

A doctoral candidate in the lab of Mary Mullins, PhD, a professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Tuazon uses a variety of methods to visualize and quantify the process called BMP signaling. The BMP signaling pathway is an important biochemical mechanism by which individual cells in a growing embryo differentiate top from bottom, front from back. In a zebrafish, that differentiation happens fast—in a window of time between 4 and 12 hours after fertilization. Visually capturing the dynamics of that shift is Tuazon’s challenge—and inspiration.

Read more about Tuazon’s winning image and see the other winners of the 2018 Perelman School of Medicine Art in Science competition on the Penn Medicine News Blog.

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