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Sunrise: Dividing brain tumor cell
“Sunrise” is a microscopic image of a single dividing human brain tumor cell. The red lines are tubulins, which act as guides for the transport of chromosomes along the cell’s mitotic spindle. The bright spots are kinetochores, which promote physical attachments between the chromosomes and the spindle. Researchers at Patrick Paddison’s Fred Hutch lab have found that kinetochore regulation is altered in brain tumors. (Credit: Paddison Lab / Fred Hutch)

Cancer researchers have to deal with some of nature’s ugliest diseases, but they do find bits of beauty along the way – and that beauty is the focus of an art walk presented by Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on Thursday.

The event features scientific images that were captured by researchers at Fred Hutch, and will be put on display from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the Mundie Courtyard on the research center’s South Lake Union Campus, at 1100 Fairview Ave. N.

One picture focuses in on a single dividing tumor cell from a human brain, glowing red with bright blue spots called kinetochores. Another shows a burst of brain cells in the cerebral cortex of a developing mouse, illuminated in blue, green and fuchsia.

Mouse brain
This section of the cerebral cortex of a developing mouse brain shows migrating cells (blue). Some cells, marked in green, have migrated normally to their proper place. Others, shown in red, express a gene that stalls their movement. (Credit: Yves Jossin / Cooper Lab / Fred Hutch)

Cecilia Moens, a developmental scientist at Fred Hutch, emphasized that the pictures weren’t taken because they’re pretty.

“The loveliness is irrelevant to the science,” she told GeekWire. “It’s unimportant that they be appealing, but sometimes they are.”

The selected images highlight the aesthetic side of photomicrography, but they also shed light on the studies being conducted at the Hutch. For example, consider this starburst image from Mitsutoshi Nakamura, who works in the Hutch’s Parkhurst Lab.

Wounding Supernova: wound repair
“Wounding Supernova” shows the effects of a laser-induced wound on a fly embryo. Actin filaments are rapidly recruited to wounds to provide a scaffolding for cellular repair. The faster the actin moves toward the wound at center, the more yellow it appears. (Credit: Mitsutoshi Nakamura / Parkhurst Lab / Fred Hutch)

“That’s a laser-induced wound in an early fly embryo,” Moens said. The patterns of actin filaments that form around the wound help Nakamura and his colleagues figure out the process by which cells heal themselves.

Actin also shows up in a squiggly image of a cell’s cytoskeleton, also from the Parkhurst Lab. The photomicrograph provided the first evidence of a protein (shown in yellow) that can link up actin filaments (green) link up with microtubules (red) to coordinate their roles in forming cellular scaffolding.

Understanding how such cytoskeletons are formed can help scientists tease apart the tangled mysteries behind the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Actin filaments
A cell’s shape and movement are controlled by its cytoskeleton — a scaffold made of actin filaments (green) and microtubules (red). This image provided the first evidence of a protein (yellow) that can link the two components to coordinate their roles. (Credit: Parkhurst Lab / Fred Hutch)

Thursday’s art walk will feature a variety of two-dimensional and three-dimensional works, and researchers from the Hutch will talk about the works and the science behind them.

Although scientists may not consider themselves artists, Moen acknowledged the parallels between the two types of endeavors.

“Art and science have the same ultimate goal, which is to understand the world,” she said.

Cell mitosis
During each phase of mitosis, a type of cell division, coordinated cell activities help DNA divide evenly between two new daughter cells. In metaphase (bottom right), chromosomes line up. In anaphase, (center) chromosomes are pulled apart by microtubules (shown in red) that attach to the chromosomes’ kinetochores (green). By early telophase (top left), two daughter cells begin to form. (Credit: Julia Torvi / Biggins Lab / Fred Hutch)

More than 500 people have RSVP’d for Thursday’s event, but it’s not too late to add your name to the list.

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