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The Power of Two

Starry Cells

Published March 11, 2014 2:30 PM by Eleanor Wolfram

Every biography that you pick up will lead you to the conclusion that the artist, Vincent van Gogh was mentally disturbed. And he may have been, but one thing you cannot deny is that his painting titled "Starry Night" seems to be precursor for modern biological art. There is an undeniable resemble of some cell structures to the very stars he painted liberally onto the canvas depicting the night sky.

In fact, I will go so far as to say that van Gogh was a man ahead of his time. His lifetime predates electronic microscopy which we utilize today and are easily able to discern the star-shaped cells in the brain. Specifically, the astrocyte glial cells' name is derived from their star shape.

Oscar Wilde, the poet is quoted as saying, "One should be either a work of art, or wear a work of art." Little did he know when he made this statement almost two centuries ago, that he was true in that we wear art all the time (on us and within us) in the form of cells.

As life scientists we tend to think of the biochemical importance of cells, but artists are over the past decade view the basic membrane-bound units as visual art. Artists are using the advances in technology to provide breath taking microscopy photographs of cell structures.

Cells are not watery bags of blobs and globs. Depending on the type of cells, they take on a variety of different tissues, shapes and sizes. For example, blood cells take on a different characteristic than those of hair cells. In addition, cells present themselves in multiple geometric shapes and three-dimensional structures. These variations of shapes and sizes are the true essence of the creative art work we see today.

What's even more exciting is that artists are collaborating with life scientists at the time to uncover even more innovative approaches to creating art from life. For example, just recently I happened upon a website titled Yonder Biology. According to their website, "Yonder biology is a DNA art company based in San Diego, California. The team takes customers DNA code and turns it into printable work of art. Naturally the artwork is unique and one of a kind since it is derived from the individual customer.

posted by Eleanor Wolfram


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