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Wellcome Image of the Month: Strawberry

18 Jun, 2010
Strawberry SEM

Strawberry

This scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a ripe strawberry is an apt choice for the first Wellcome Image of the Month of the summer. In the UK, the fruit is consumed in abundance at summer picnics and as the traditional, tasty accompaniment to the tennis tournament Wimbledon.

Strawberries have a just reputation for being juicy and succulent, which means they are challenging to image using a scanning electron microscope. Even under low vacuum conditions, the water held within cells boils off, causing them to rapidly lose shape.

David McCarthy from the London School of Pharmacy had only minutes to capture the single strawberry before it disintegrated. Because of this, “certain ‘tricks’ needed to be applied to successfully create a convincing micrograph of the whole fruit,” says David.

A series of twenty images were captured, digitally “stitched” back together with great skill and coloured by Annie Cavanagh, also from the London School of Pharmacy, who says it took her “five attempts, four failures and three weeks,” to produce the perfect red strawberry you see here.

A few facts about one of Britain’s favourite fruits:

  • Strawberries are octoploid organisms. They have eight copies of each chromosome, rather than two, as in humans (who are diploid).
  • DNA can be extracted from strawberries using household equipment and ingredients: shampoo, salt, a blender, rubbing alcohol and a few straws.
  • A variety of strawberries called Seascape could soon be grown in space by astronauts, a practice which could reduce feelings of isolation, increase astronauts’ productivity and provide better scientific results on long-term missions.

Louise Crane, Picture Researcher, Wellcome Images

Image credit: Annie Cavanagh, Wellcome Images
Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. All our images are available in digital form so please click the link above if you would like to use the picture that features in this post, or to quickly find related ones. Many are free to use non-commercially under the terms of a Creative Commons licence and full details of the specific licence for each image are provided.
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