If you meet some cell biologists and get them talking about what they enjoy most in their work, you may find it comes down to one thing: secretly, they’re all microscope freaks. At the end of the day, what they really love is the chance to sit in a small, dark room for hours on end, communing with their favorite cell type through the lens of a beautiful microscope. That may seem odd, but the truth is, cells can be pretty gorgeous, like living stained glass. One of my favorite examples of this is the picture below, which shows cells in a very young leaf of thale cress, a small flowering plant related to mustard.
This picture isn’t a plain light micrograph; it’s a fluorescent image of a specially prepared plant where various parts of the cell were labeled with tags to make them glow. However, this kind of cellular complexity and beauty is all around us, whether we can see it or not.You could find cells just as intricately patterned and beautifully formed in any plant you looked at – from the rose in your backyard, to the grass growing up through the sidewalk, to the carrots you ate for a snack. Let’s not limit it to plants, either: exquisite layers of cells can be found in your skin, in an insect’s wing, and in just about any other living tissue you choose to look at. We, and the world around us, are cathedrals made of cells. We just need some microscopy to appreciate it.