These award-winning science images show the world in ways you've never imagined

Every day, scientists work to understand the aspects of the world that are completely unknown to the rest of us. Some study the way blood vessels provide oxygen to an African Grey parrot, others follow tiny bobtail squid that light themselves up while hunting for shrimp, and others try to understand the pain and physical symptoms of diseases like Crohn’s.

Most of the time, we can’t “see” this work in a way that helps us understand it and shows how fascinating and even beautiful it can be. In the images below, showing the winners of the Wellcome Image Awards 2017 contest, first established in 1997, you can see all this — and it’s beautiful indeed.

The winners include photos, illustrations, paintings, and more.

They’re all supposed to uncover or “open up a world of science often hidden to the naked eye,” according to BBC Medical Correspondent Fergus Walsh, a member of the judging panel. “There is a spectacular array of images here which will draw the public in, make them wonder and make them ask questions about things they have never even imagined,” he says in a press release emailed to Business Insider.

The overall winner will be announced on March 15. We’ve republished the winning collection below, along with some information about what each image depicts and how it was created.

This image shows how an 'iris clip', also known as an artificial intraocular lens (IOL), is used to treat conditions such as myopia (nearsightedness) and cataracts (cloudiness of the lens), is fitted onto the eye. (Clinical photography)

Mark Bartley, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

This image shows a 3D reconstruction that details the highly intricate system of blood vessels in the head and neck of an African grey parrot, post euthanasia. (Computed tomography (CT) and digital imaging)

Scott Birch and Scott Echols

This image shows a 3D-printed reconstruction of the pathways connecting the areas responsible for speech and language in the brain. (Tractography)

Stephanie J Forkel and Ahmad Beyh, Natbrainlab, King’s College London; Alfonso de Lara Rubio, King’s College London

This image shows a baby Hawaiian bobtail squid, measuring just 1.5 cm across, which has a light organ that matches its appearance to moonlight and starlight, masking its silhouette and making it invisible to predators swimming below. (Photomacrography)

Mark R Smith, Macroscopic Solutions

A 3D model of a healthy mini pig eye and the blood vessels that bring energy and food to the muscles surrounding the iris. (Computed tomography (CT) and 3D printing)

Peter M Maloca, OCTlab at the University of Basel and Moorfields Eye Hospital, London; Christian Schwaller; Ruslan Hlushchuk, University of Bern; Sébastien Barré

Unravelled DNA in a human lung cell that has been caught and pulled apart during cell division. (Super-resolution microscopy)

Ezequiel Miron, University of Oxford

An image of Rita Levi Montalcini, an Italian neurobiologist and the joint recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of nerve growth factor. (Digital illustration)

Daria Kirpach/Salzman International

These two young boys in rural Nicaragua have lost two cousins to chronic kidney disease, which affects more than half of the adult population where they live. It's a disease associated with heavy labour in hot temperatures, particularly among industrial agricultural workers, such as those working in sugarcane production. The two boys were reluctant to speak to the photojournalist in case it jeopardized their chances of working in the sugarcane fields. (Photography)

Joshua Mcdonald

This synthetic net can coat a tumour to deliver microRNAs, which control the proper function and growth of cells and are being investigated by researchers as a possible cancer therapy. (Scanning electron microscopy.)

João Conde, Nuria Oliva and Natalie Artzi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

This image is part of a series called Stickman -- The Vicissitudes of Crohn's. The character, a proxy or alter ego of the artist, is made of sticks rather than bones and references the associated symptoms of weight loss, the body's fragility following a flare-up, and the abrupt, transformative nature of Crohn's. (Computer-generated imagery (CGI)/digital art and illustration)

Spooky Pooka

The spinal cord is formed from a structure called the neural tube, which develops during the first month of pregnancy. This series of three images shows the open end of a mouse's neural tube, with each image highlighting (in blue) one of the three main embryonic tissue types. (Confocal microscopy)

Gabriel Galea, University College London

Hidden Learning, from the Chrysalis project, explores what women feel they keep hidden in the work environment, such as the pull between their career and home/other life -- unique as that is to every woman. The veil seen in this image is made up of the molecular structure of a sugar molecule, contributed by one of the participating scientists. (Painting)

Original painting by Sophie McKay Knight, with imagery contributed by women scientists from the University of St Andrews – part of the Chrysalis project coordinated by Mhairi Stewart

This four-day-old zebrafish embryo has been modified using two mechanisms -- borrowed from the fascinating worlds of bacteria and yeast -- that are widely applied in genetics research, including the DNA-editing tool CRISPR. (Confocal microscopy)

Ingrid Lekk and Steve Wilson, University College London

These placentas were investigated at day 12 of the 20-day gestation period -- the point at which a mouse's placenta has gained its characteristic shape but is still developing. These placentas are from mice with genetically different immune systems, and have been stained for three proteins. Such techniques could help us understand and identify ways to treat complications that arise during human pregnancies. (Confocal microscopy)

Suchita Nadkarni, William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London

The intricate network of blood vessels in this pigeon's neck is just visible at the bottom of the picture. This extensive blood supply just below the skin helps the pigeon control its body temperature through a process known as thermoregulation. (Computed tomography (CT) and digital imaging)

Scott Echols, Scarlet Imaging and the Grey Parrot Anatomy Project

A patient being treated by an eye doctor at a makeshift eye clinic in India. This image was taken while Susan, the photographer, was volunteering for the charity Unite For Sight. (Photography)

Susan Smart

This image is an artist's representation of what the channels that span a cell's membrane and control two-way communication between the cell and its environment look like. (Digital art and illustration)

Michael Northrop

This is a graphical visualisation of data extracted from tweets containing the hashtag #breastcancer. Twitter users are represented by dots (called nodes) and lines connecting the nodes represent the relationships between the Twitter users. Nodes are sized differently according to the number and importance of other nodes they are connected with, and the thickness of each connecting line is determined by the number of times that a particular relationship is expressed within the data. (Computer analysis/graphical visualisation)

Eric Clarke, Richard Arnett and Jane Burns, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

This image was created by digitally stitching together over 400 images to form one large image, so as to show the entire surface of a mouse retina. (Confocal microscopy)

Gabriel Luna, Neuroscience Research Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara

Researchers are investigating how neural stem cells grow on a synthetic gel called PEG, essentially growing a miniature brain on a plastic chip that could be used to accurately predict the effectiveness and toxicity of drugs and vaccines. (Confocal microscopy)

Collin Edington and Iris Lee, © Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

These scenes are inspired by works by medieval artists and the 15th-century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. The scenes are separated by Asclepian snakes, representing both Asclepius -- the ancient Greek god of medicine -- and the modern-day symbol for medicine. (Digital art and illustration)

Madeleine Kuijper, Madeleine Kuijper Illustraties
Descriptions of the images (clockwise, from top left). 1) A parody of alchemy: a masked figure holds in his hand a conical flask from which frogs jump. In the distance a heron waits for a chance to grab one. 2) A man sits on a cart, asking a doctor if his disordered limbs can be repaired. 3) In an operation scene, a doctor appears to be pulling a bunch of sausages out of a patient's belly while surrounded by hungry dogs. 4) A medieval surgeon holding a small knife operates on a man's opened head. The patient is also being attended to by a female assistant, who is giving him some tea.)

A polarised light micrograph of a section of cat skin, showing hairs, whiskers and their blood supply. Fine hairs (yellow), thicker whisker (yellow) and blood vessels (black) are all visible. (Polarised light microscopy)

David Linstead

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