You're looking at some of the most intricate images of live nerve endings ever captured, in which it's possible to make out individual nerves and touch receptors in unprecedented detail.
The images were acquired by researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory using a technique called SNAP-tagging. While that been around for at least ten years, this is the first time it's ever been used to image live neurons—in this case, in mice. The process usually works by applying a special protein to samples, and in this case the mice were genetically engineered to produce it in their skin. The protein binds artificial dies, which then show up brightly in the resulting images. The image above, for instance, shows hundreds of nerve endings just below the surface of the skin, while the one below shows how nerves split into many branches.
It's hoped that the research will soon not just depict the nerves but also show them in action. But until then, they sure are pretty. [Verge]
Images by EMBL/L.Castaldi