The above photograph shows a skin cell expressing an excessive amount of keratin. Taken by physicist Bram van den Broek and colleagues at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, it has won first place in the 2017 Nikon Small World Competition. The photograph was captured during research into the expression patterns of keratin proteins, which can used to diagnose cancer. “By studying the ways different proteins like keratin dynamically change within a cell, we can better understand the progression of cancers and other diseases,” he explains.
This year’s competition attracted more than 2,000 entries from around the world. “What I most enjoy about this competition,” says van den Broek, “is that a larger audience can appreciate the beautiful complexity and diversity of the world unseen by the naked eye.” We agree, so here are 10 of our favourites from the top 20 as determined by the competition’s judges.
The Small World Competition has helped promote the role of photography in revealing the microscopic world so crucial to advancing scientific knowledge since 1974. “This year’s winners not only reflect remarkable research and trends in science but also allow the public to get a glimpse of a hidden world,” says Eric Flem of Nikon Instruments, which sponsors the competition.
To see all 88 photos commended by the judges, check out the competition website.