Research as Art


Author Dr Miranda Whitten

The female Anopheles mosquito, notorious for transmitting malaria, mates only once in her lifetime. Mating alters her physiology and behaviour so radically that she becomes “mating-resistant”. The underlying chemical triggers and processes are poorly understood, but centre on a tissue called the atrium, which receives and responds to male secretions. Eventually we may be able to mimic those triggers and “trick” virgin mosquitoes into becoming mating-resistant (and hence infertile). This image was captured with an electron microscope and shows part of an atrium cell after mating, transforming from a secretory role to an absorptive one. A sub-cellular structure called the smooth endoplasmic reticulum has started to collapse and fold in on itself, creating complex and fascinating labyrinthine patterns. I applied a kaleidoscopic effect to the image, and it has become a strange kind of inkblot test. In the intimate folds of these private cells, what do you see?