The 2021 KI Image Awards include winners from the faculty at IMES and HST, and HST graduates.

Have you ever wondered how those compelling images that illustrate research are created? The Koch Institute (KI) Image Awards can show how. The awards, which “seek to recognize the extraordinary visuals that are produced through life sciences and biomedical research at MIT,” are described by KI as images which serve as “windows into otherwise invisible biological worlds”.

The 2021 KI Image Awards  winners include some creators with connections to the MIT Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) and the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program (HST)—IMES is HST’s home at MIT. This includes IMES core faculty member Sangeeta Bhatia, John J. and Dorothy Wilson Professor, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS); Natalie Artzi, principle research scientist at IMES; Jesse Kirkpatrick, a May 2020 PhD graduate of the HST Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP) program and Arnav Chhabra an HST MEMP PhD graduate from September, 2019.

Winning images will be exhibited in the large (nearly 8-foot) backlit square and circular displays at the Koch Institute Public Galleries. The images will be prominently visible to passersby on Main Street, Cambridge, and visitors to the Koch Institute website. Materials within the Galleries and on the web will engage visitors in the stories, people, and research behind the images.

The winning images affiliated with HST and IMES are, along with descriptions from the image guide that is part of the exhibition:

“Making the Cut” by Ava Soleimany, Jesse Kirkpatrick, Susan Su, Jaideep Dudani, Qian Zhong, Ahmet Bekdemir, Sangeeta Bhatia 

Description: In order to grow or spread, cancer cells break down surrounding tissue using specialized enzymes called proteases. The Bhatia Lab designs tiny sensors to measure protease activity in highly specific locations. This image shows the probes (magenta) homed in on epithelial cells (green) in the colon, where proteases are hard at work.

Turning this technology on tumors will provide clinicians with a highly sensitive tool to detect cancer cells and assess their response to treatment. As a diagnostic platform, these nanosensors offer new strategies for visualizing the biology of disease.

“To the Point”  by Núria Puigmal Domínguez, Gonzalo Muñoz Taboada, Pere Dosta, Natalie Artzi 

Description: These microneedles are being developed to both diagnose and treat disease. Mounted on a small (1 cm) bandage-like patch, they superficially pierce the skin and collect cells, which can then be analyzed to inform treatment. At the same time, immuno-stimulatory drugs can be loaded into the needles and released into the skin where they activate the immune system to fight cancer.

Artzi Lab researchers took this image to assess the needles’ porosity‚ or holeyness. Structures must be strong enough to penetrate the skin, but permeable enough for cells to migrate inside…and treatment to flow out. In this view, bright areas correspond with low porosity.

“Mind the Zap” by Arnav Chhabra, Edward Kah Wei Tan, Keval Vyas, Girish Rughoobur, Sangeeta N. Bhatia

Description: Vasculature plays an important role in the development of tumors. Cancer cells give off chemical signals to recruit blood vessels, which in turn deliver critical nutrients to the tumor.

Taking inspiration from cancer cells, the Bhatia Lab uses electrical fields to fabricate a network of blood vessels (red) around engineered mini-livers (cyan). The resulting vasculature efficiently transports nutrients to the mini-organs, promoting their long-term survival and demonstrating the ‘shocking’ potential of electrical stimulation to improve both transplant technology and cell-based therapies.

Read more here.