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The University of Alicante crawls into the Top 20 best science images of the year

UA Department of Physiology, Genetics and Microbiology researchers Nicolás Cuenca and Isabel Ortuño-Lizarán were awarded for their photomicrography of the human retina submitted to the Nikon International Small World Competition 



Alicante. Thursday 8 November 2018

UA image showing the cross section of a human retina taken by researchers Nicolás Cuenca and Isabel Ortuño-Lizarán, from the University of Alicante Department of Physiology, Genetics and Microbiology, has been included in the Top 20 of the Nikon Small World Competition 2018. The wining photograph reveals the beauty of the foveal cones and has been competing among more than 2,500 proposals from the 89 countries participating in this edition.

The retina, a thin nervous tissue located in the back of the eye,  is responsible for detecting light and turning it into nerve impulses travelling to the brain. The fovea, or macula, is a quarter-millimetre central area of the retina, full of cone-type photoreceptors associated with colour vision and perception of fine detail. 

Cuenca and Ortuño-Lizarán decided to send this photograph because it shows the beauty of the retina microscopically and its perfect organisation in different layers. In particular, this unique image allows us to see the stylised morphology of the central cones (green), its high density in this area and its connections with other cells of the retina, not shown above. The cones are responsible for the vision of colour and are essential for everyday activities such as reading or recognising faces.

The work of the UA researchers focuses on the study of the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases in the retina. According to Cuenca, their goal is to understand more about degenerative diseases of the retina such as glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration in order to find new therapies. Some of the main techniques they use daily in the University of Alicante laboratory to carry out this mission are optical and electronic microscopy.

Also, thanks to the combination of science and art under a microscope, the UA researchers bring science to the general public with microscopic images that explain facts related to vision, the retina and neuroscience. The researchers added that they love scientific photography and believe that this is a good way to disseminate the results of our research to society and promote science through the microscopic world of our body.

The 'Nikon Small World’ is considered the most prestigious competition to show the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the microscope. As in every year, the 20 award-winning photographs are exhibited at a number of museums and science centres in the United States and Canada. Moreover, many winning images are also featured on the covers of prestigious scientific journals.


‘Nikon Small World’

The 'Nikon Small World' competition began to be held in 1975 and has become a showcase for photomicrography from the widest array of scientific disciplines.

Anyone with an interest in photography through the microscope can participate in this international contest with entries received from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.  Winners have included both professionals and hobbyists.

Entries submitted to Nikon are judged by an independent panel of experts who are leading authorities in the area of photomicrography and photography. The assessment criteria is based on originality, informational content, technical proficiency and visual impact.


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