Science and art are so often presented as diametrically opposed opposites, but, of course, there’s lots of overlap. Science is beautiful — not just in vague terms about the grand pursuit of knowledge, but actually aesthetically stunning. For the past 20 years, the Wellcome Image Awards have tried to honor and highlight “informative, striking and technically excellent images that communicate significant aspects of healthcare and biomedical science.”
The 22 winners for 2017 showcase the beautiful intricacies of science across several different fields of study, including biology, medicine, neuroscience, and beyond. Some are colorful, some are eerie, and all of them were created in an attempt to expand human understanding of the world we live in.
Scroll down to see the works of art and all of the ways that science and creativity can intertwine. You can also vote for your favorite for a chance to win a print of one of the stunning pieces.
This model of a 3-D printed pig’s eye includes every tiny vessel that supplies blood to the eye — the smallest are about the diameter of a human hair. It is made out of the same material as Legos and took 39 hours to print.
Also 3-D printed, this little bundle of axons mimics the pathway in the human brain that connects speech to language, called the arcuate fasciculus. It’s like the main telephone line in the brain and without it, we wouldn’t be capable of one of the most fundamental aspects of being human: verbal communication.
This veiny mosaic is an in-depth look at the retinal structure of a mouse’s eye. It was pieced together using more than 400 images of different optical scans, creating a complete map of the entire surface of the retina.
In this color wheel, you’re actually looking at optical slices of pregnant mouse placentas. It might sound gross, but this image shows off the beautiful side of the nutrient-filled sack that feeds mammals before they pop out into the world. Scientists are using them to find solutions for pregnancy complications.
Living creatures have flaws, even on a microscopic level. This gemstone-like beauty captures a digital image of two cells caught in a replication process called mitosis. For an unknown reason, they are stuck together, and the nucleus is getting pulled causing the DNA fibers to swirl around uncontrollably inside of it.
At the end of the day, we’re all just three little neural tubes. These tubes form in the first month of pregnancy and are the foundation for all human tissue. In this image, the tube to the left will form the spinal cord, brain, and nerves. The middle tube will come to form the skin, teeth, and hair. And the right tube will form the organs.
This mutant zebrafish embryo is the product of CRISPR DNA editing. A foreign gene was inserted into the specimen, which expresses itself via glowing red fluorescence. It was designed to help scientists map instinctual behaviors like schooling.
Just further (funky) proof that our feline pets are natural-born killers. In this microscopic sliver of cat skin, the hairs and whiskers are indicated in yellow, the blood vessels are in black, and the red represents capillaries. Samples like this are leading scientists to believe that whiskers help cats feel vibrations in the air, signifying a moving object.
This image shows the wonders of a small clip inserted into the iris of an eye, — a common practice for helping people with nearsightedness and cataracts.
This photo documents two brothers on their way home from cutting in sugarcane fields in Nicaragua. They’ve lost their two older brothers to kidney failure, a common disease among men who work in hot temperatures.
Here we see a patient being treated at a Unite for Sight clinic in India — a charity that has helped 1.9 million people worldwide, especially those in extreme poverty.
An interesting take on tweets about #breastcancer, this infographic uses cancerous-looking lumps to represent the connections between Twitter users who engaged in conversations about breast cancer. The large spot at the top represents two accounts that were mentioned thousands of times.
These glowing strands are two bits of microRNA woven into a type of net. Scientists are hoping to use the net to trap cancerous tumors and deliver the MicroRNAs directly to them to stop them from growing.
This biodesign illustration represents a DNA channel that acts as a two-way communication stream between a cell and it’s environment. The outer rings are the six helices and the blue orbs are the proteins that travel through them.
This digital illustration is inspired by medieval artwork, telling a story from the top left around clockwise to the bottom left. The story is about a man receiving very strange medical treatments. The snakes between the frame represent the ancient greek symbol for medicine, which is also seen today in the medical cross worn by doctors and first responders.
In this image, a girl wears a veil of sugar molecules on her head. As part of the Chrysalis project, which aims to bring women working in science together, the portrait represents women in science and the constant struggle they face when balancing work and home.
This stickman illustration is a visual representation of Chron’s Disease, a chronic illness that inflames the digestive system and often leads to painful symptoms, as represented by the sticks protruding from the figure’s abdomen.
This digital illustration depicts Rita Levi-Montalcini and her secret scientific endeavors during WWII in Italy. As a non-Aryan woman, she was forced to work in her home and it wasn’t until after the war that she was able to present her discovery of the nerve growth factor, which lead to our current understanding of tumors, deformations, and even dementia.
This close-up photograph of a baby bobtail squid draws the eye to the glowing black organ on its underside. The organ is actually an ink-filled sack, assisted by luminescent bacteria, which help the squid camouflage itself day or night.
In this 3-D reconstruction of an African Grey Parrot, scientists can see the bird’s vascular system in great detail, including blood vessels in the head, neck, and beak.
This image, which was also taken using the same technology as the previous picture, shows a pigeon’s vascular system, which sits just below the skin and helps the bird regulate its body temperature.
Stem cell research is a wondrous thing. In this microscopic image, the stem cells (pink) are sprouting nerve fibers (green). This kind of work is helping scientists understand how the environment affects the cell’s organization.