Award-winning heart-shaped red blood cell

Researcher, Fraser Macrae, has won the British Heart Foundation photography competition for his image of a heart-shaped red blood cell.


Under the intense magnification of an electron microscope, Fraser spotted the cell which became entangled in the net-like fibres of a blood clot, compressing it into the shape of a heart.

Fraser, who works at the Leeds Institute of Genetics, Health and Therapeutics (LIGHT) at the University, said: “The human body is amazing, particularly when you can see it at this very fine detail. But I was quite frankly amazed when I saw the blood cell which by chance had been squeezed into a heart shape.

“As someone who is investigating aspects of heart disease, it seemed to be very symbolic.

“And that’s why I decided to call the image ‘Getting to the heart of the problem’.”

The electron microscope - operating at 5000-times magnification - brought to life structures that measure just a millionth of a millimetre but it can only take photos in different shades of grey.

Fraser restored the natural red-colour of the blood cell using photo software – creating the stunning image that won the British Heart Foundation photography competition.

Working at LIGHT, Fraser is part of a research team looking at how blood clots form, a vital mechanism to stop blood loss when a blood vessel is damaged but one that can cause a stroke or heart attack when clots form in the wrong place. He is trying to understand why people who have heart disease form clots that the body is unable to breakdown.

Posted in: