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These Striking Cellfies are the Bee’s Knee

The bee’s knee that started it all.

Gary Sarkis, Staff Scientist at GE Healthcare’s Life Sciences division in New York, is used to seeing the world from a different point of view. He spends much of his day looking at the building blocks of the world around us, seeing how things work on a microscopic scale.

We are awash with news from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, but you may be surprised to find that we have just as much to learn from the world of the imperceptibly small, right here on Earth. This week, the Pulse is hosting a gallery of Gary’s best microscopy images, showcasing the visually stunning convergence of art and science that exists all around us, if only we knew where to look.

The alien-like, ethereal hues and colors of Gary’s images are possible thanks to an imaging system, called Cytell. Essentially, Cytell is a point-and-shoot microscopy technique that, in Gary’s words, “takes a lot of the microscopist out of getting the perfect shot.”

Low-magnification image of papillae, the tiny hair-like structures on your tongue.

“It wasn’t until Cytell that I felt I could spend minutes on the microscope and get a great image that I could show my friends,” he added.

Gary’s fantastic voyage began when he helped his daughter analyze a bee’s leg (top image) for a school science project.

“My daughter and I had studied the leg with her toy microscope at home,” he said. “We spent a lot of quality time together moving it around and getting it in focus. But when we were done, we had nothing more to take away than the memory of what it looked like.”

Gary decided to take the sample into work and used Cytell to take a closer look. What he saw was the bee’s knees, and a whole lot more.

High magnification image a cross-section of the stem of a Basswood (Tilia) tree.

“An amazingly detailed hairy leg popped right up on my computer screen,” he said. For fun, he also imaged the leg in fluorescent light and saw that it was “very auto-fluorescent,” and generated its own light.

Cytell builds on technology developed for high-end instruments like the DeltaVision microscope and the IN Cell analyzer. It combines digital microscopy, image cytometry, and cell counting in one compact bench-top instrument.

It has a tablet-like user interface powered by software that allows researchers to quickly navigate its functions. “They can simply set up very specific kinds of experiments and automatically receive data in the form of graphs, charts and reports to see if they worked,” Sarkis said.

“It’s similar to the point-and-shoot camera,” he added. “Because the output is customizable, those charts and graphs also help the scientist tell the story of how certain cells behave when treated with drugs or other chemicals.  The great images and great results create a great story for the scientist to share with others”.


Low magnification image of the wing of a fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster).

Gary has even used the imaging system to reignite children’s passion for science – parents could send him their children’s science project samples and get back beautiful, fascinating images.

Spark your interest by taking a look through our gallery and following GE Healthcare’s Instagram account. Every Friday, GE Healthcare will reveal a new Cytell image under the #GECellfies hashtag series. Take a moment to marvel at the sheer diversity of the world around us.


Cytell, DeltaVision and InCell Analyzer products are for research use only- not for diagnostic use.


More Information

From a bee’s mouth to a mouse’s knuckle: Groundbreaking ‘point and shoot’ microscope reveals the hidden world around us

Bees, Shoots, and Leaves: Amazing Adventures in the Microworld

Cytell Cell Imaging System