Henrietta is best known to scientists as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors. She died of cervical cancer over 60 years ago. During her illness and failed treatments and death, unknown to her or her family, tissue cells were collected from her body. That was at the 'colored' ward at John Hopkins Hospital. Those cells turned out to be impressively successful when grown in culture.
In fact, these cells have been bought and sold by the billions; they have traveled to all parts of the world; they have been used in research to study cell life, the cycle of cancer cells and growth, and to develop treatments for many human illnesses and diseases.
HeLa cells also are a focus of many photomicrographers. Combining the technology of microscope and photography, a photomicrographer is able to capture an image of cells that the naked eye cannot see. Nikon offers a 'small world' photomicrography competition every year, rewarding those scientists who not only have captured the essence and beauty of the world close up, but who have also made important scientific contributions to life sciences, bio-research, and materials science.
Fluorescence microscopy, one of the original ways to photograph tissue samples, is limited by out-of-focus flare. In rapidly expanding fields of cellular and molecular biology, superior techniques and needs have led to more sophisticated microscopes and numerous fluorescent filters and lenses.
Confocal microscopy reduces the limitation (especially with thick specimens) of out-of-focus flare by using a confocal pinhole to reject out-of-focus background fluorescence, and produce thin, unblurred optical sections.
A deconvolution microscope uses a conventional microscope to digitally reconstruct an image using the measured point spread function of the optical system. Thus, digital imagery!
All of the photomicrography fascinates me, but I was rocked by the HeLa cells that have been submitted to the Nikon competition. They are dangerously beautiful. You can view some of them in the HeLa album by clicking here.