The Wellcome Image Awards 2011 were announced at a ceremony at the Wellcome Collection in London on Wednesday, 23rd February 2011. The 21 winning images are the most visually striking, technically excellent and informative images that have been acquired by the Wellcome Images picture library in the past sixteen months. Among the 21 winning images was Chromosome lifetime map by the Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expressions’ David Lleres.

The image is of a human chromosome in metaphase created by fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy/Förster resonance energy transfer (FLIM/FRET). The colours in this image indicate the density of chromatin in the chromosome, like a heat map (red shows high density, blue low). A low density of chromatin indicates a high level of gene expression, and a high density indicates repression of gene expression.

Upon being asked why the picture was chosen Panel Judge Adam Rutherford, who is editor at ‘Nature’ and presenter of BBC 4’s ‘Genome’, said, “In the ten years since the Human Genome Project revealed that we had fewer than 23 000 genes, geneticists have been exploring the mystery of what the other 97 per cent of the human genome is for. This beautiful chromosome shows how the overall structure of a genome is dynamically arranged, and how the density of chromatin is variable. This type of picture helps to reveal that large areas of the genome are active, and not the ‘junk DNA’ that they were once called.”

Dr Adam Rutherford, who presented the awards at the Wellcome Collection, also said: “Images are one of the cornerstones of science, but are often neglected as an obvious means of communicating complex ideas. Throughout the history of science and discovery, key ideas have been best described and shared through diagrams. How much easier is it to understand the double helix structure of DNA when you can picture it? And crucially, that structure itself is key to understanding its function.”

This years’ winning images range from a stunning SEM of a honeybee to a light micrograph of bacteria found in the human mouth. Cutting edge techniques, such as optical project tomography and diffusion tensor imaging, are also recognised. The winning images showcase a picture’s ability to communicate the wonder and fascination of science. The website unwraps the stories behind the creation of these fantastic images. You can read about the origin of a moon month, and why a male mosquito won’t make you itch.

The selected images are now on display at Wellcome Collection and at

Wellcome Image Awards 2011 exhibition at Wellcome Collection

183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE

24 February 2011 to 10 July 2011

Admission free

Opening times:

Mon, Tue, Wed: 10.00-18.00

Thu: 10.00-22.00

Fri, Sat: 10.00-18.00

Sun: 11.00-18.00