Updated: 7 April 2020

Beakers, bunsen burners, and microscopes are the images that often come to mind while thinking about 'science', but there's obviously much more to the field than that when it comes to imagery. 

The science we do at PMI covers a wide range of subjects, from airway deposition to genotoxicity analysis, and more. Within that scope, there are many moments of visual beauty that can capture the eye and increase our understanding of the field. Here, we've collected some images to offer more insight into the beauty of science, and how that beauty lets us learn more about an array of outcomes to help grow the global database of research.


Culture of Violets

Culture of Violets H&E stain

One of the most prominent tissue stains in histology (the study of microanatomy) is hematoxylin and eosin. Hematoxylin dyes the nuclei in this 3D human organotypic nasal cell culture blue, eosin dyes the extracellular matrix and cytoplasm pink, while the stain Alcian Blue dyes the mucin molecules (a component of mucus) blue.

Learn how we use nasal cell cultures in Platform 2 testing.


Nosy Fox

Within this 3D human organotypic nasal cell culture, immunohistochemical staining highlights the protein FOXJ1 in brown while hematoxylin stains the nuclei blue. The FOXJ1 protein is part of the forkhead box (Fox) family of transcription factors that play key roles in cell proliferation and differentiation.

Cultures like these are used in tissue research for Platform 1, which you can read here.

Nosy Fox FOXJ1 proteins



This speckled island of blue and green is a human induced pluripotent stem cell culture. These undifferentiated cells were cultured by one of our first R&D postdoctoral fellows for use in an in vitro neuronal model of Parkinson’s disease.

Learn about the experiences of our postdoctoral fellows here.



Staining for albumin (green), nuclei (blue), and α-smooth muscle actin (red) of human liver cells and human hepatic stellate cells create this triple-colored façade. These 10x magnified cells were cultured together to develop a more complex model system of the human liver.

For a look into why we need more complex liver systems, read our lung/liver-on-a-chip study.

Human liver cells stained for albumin (in green) and stellate cells (in red)

Sticky Cells

Sticky Cells 3D organotypic nasal culture

This 3D human organotypic nasal cell culture shows blue-stained nuclei, and red-stained E-cadherin; a cell-cell adhesion molecule that plays a key role in cell behavior and tissue formation. 3D cell cultures more closely resemble the physiology of tissue in the human body, compared to 2D cultures or animal models.

Read more about our 3D nasal cell cultures here.


Electric Blue

How can we tell what DNA markers tobacco plants have? By separating the amplified microsatellite marker DNA with capillary electrophoresis, the process of loading DNA samples into gel capillaries and sending an electrical current through them. The current causes DNA molecules to travel through the gel, the smaller the DNA molecule the further away from the starting point they travel.

If you want to know what we use capillary electrophoresis for, read this publication.

Electric Blue capillary electrophoresis blue

Emerald Neurons

Emerald Neurons Hu iPSC neuronal cells

The network of neuronal cells in this image have been derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells and stained in green, highlighting the neuronal marker tubulin beta III. Our research into neurons looks to establish a model of Parkinson’s disease, and test the potential neuroprotective effects of tobacco-derived compounds.

Here’s an overview of our research presentation on neuroprotective effects.


Protein Junctions

In between these cells of a 3D human organotypic bronchial cell culture resides the protein ZO-1, stained in red. The protein is expressed in tight junctions; seals between cells that form a permeability barrier. The intact red trails mean that there’s no cell damage. In cases of cell/tissue damage, the tight junctions would not be visible.

This publication highlights 3D cell culture analysis.

Organotypic lung cells

Pale to Pink

Tobacco flowers

Believe it or not tobacco plants don't just produce leaves, they create a beautiful color palette of flowers. Our scientists are investigating flower diversity, starting with 'grandparents' that had pale or dark pink petals and cross-breeding those plants to produce offspring with the colors you see in the image.

If you want to know more about flowering tobacco plants, you can read this study.


Bronchial Bloom

This picture highlights a slide of primary human bronchial cells - from the surface of the windpipe. The bright greens and reds in this image are created by staining for P63 and CD151 respectively. Why are we highlighting these cells? Because studying them gives us deeper knowledge of lung physiology - better understanding of their structure, function, and how they react to various stimuli.

Read more about our cell culture studies here.


Luminous Spheres

These strange glowing orbs are human liver cell spheroids. But what are spheroids? They're a collection of cells used to mimic an organ. In our in vitro research we've developed lung/liver-on-a-chip technology for pre-clinical research. With further development, spheroids could potentially help supplement animal testing.

Click here to read more about organ-on-chip technology.


Nasal Housekeeping

This row of 3D human organotypic cells comes from nasal epithelium (inside a nose) made up of ciliated cells (which are topped with hair-like structures), goblet cells (which produce mucus), and basal cells (stem cells that can differentiate into other specialized cells). The flecks of red show the RNA expression of a gene called Hs-PPIB; a housekeeping gene.

To find out how and why we study nasal cells, click here.

Nasal Housekeeping

Science is Beautiful is a project aimed at revealing some of the most beautiful aspects of the science we do at PMI. We’re proud of the 430+ world-class scientists and engineers working with us, state-of-the-art technologies we use, and the beauty of the science we do each day. If these images have piqued your interest, be sure to stay tuned on PMIScience.com and follow us on social media.


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