A brightly coloured magnified
image which recently won a national art prize is also
revealing ''world first'' insights into a previously
little-researched part of human cells.
The prize-winning image depicts the ''primary cilia''-
hair-like structures which extend outside most human cells -
magnified more than 30,000 times.
Each structure acts as a ''sensory probe'', providing crucial
information to the cell about its immediate external
''microenvironment'' and telling it what to do.
The image was produced by Michael Jennings, as part of his
University of Otago PhD research, also utilising earlier work
by his supervisor, Research Associate Prof Tony Poole, of the
Otago department of medicine.
Initially long-neglected, primary cilia are attracting
rapidly growing international research interest. Prof Poole,
an award-winning researcher who has devoted his 35-year
career to this field, praised Mr Jennings' ''world first''
achievement in revealing the anatomically-correct internal
structure of primary cilia in human cartilage cells.
Mr Jennings spent hundreds of hours using specialised
AgResearch electron microscope tomography equipment, based at
The highly detailed three-dimensional view of the tiny
organ-termed an organelle-could revolutionise understanding
of this once ''enigmatic'' feature of most human cells.
''It's a brand new area and no-one else has done this,'' Prof
Abnormal primary cilia are involved in many conditions and
diseases, including a polycystic kidney disease, which can
affect one person in every 400.
Mr Jennings and Prof Poole won the $1000 first prize in an
''Art of the Invisible'' nanotechnology exhibition in