15 Aug 2023
Stamp in Life Magnified series shows fluorescence microscopy to promote interest in science.
The NIH zebrafish image, which was taken during research into lymphatic vessel development in the brain, merges 350 individual images to reveal a juvenile zebrafish with a fluorescently tagged skeleton, scales and lymphatic system.
Zebrafish have regularly helped researchers to carry out studies of genome function and organ development, thanks to the fish's small size and transparency.
The zebrafish image now used by USPS was taken by Daniel Castranova at the NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), as part of research into understanding mechanisms guiding the formation of blood and lymphatic vessels.
"Zebrafish are used as a model for typical and atypical human development," said Diana Bianchi of NICHD. "It is surprising how much we have in common with zebrafish. My hope is that this postage stamp will help spur conversations and appreciation for the importance of basic science research."
The stamp series also includes images of red blood cells, neurons from a mouse's brain, bone tissue from a starling and scales on the wing of a Madagascan sunset moth, among others.
Groundbreaking details of zebrafish development
The Castranova image has already been featured on the cover of the 2021 issue of Circulation Research in which the NICHD research was published, and also received top honor in the 46th annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition in 2020.
According to the researchers, a groundbreaking discovery made during that study was that zebrafish have lymphatic vessels inside their skull. These vessels were previously thought to occur only in mammals, and their discovery in fish could expedite and revolutionize research related to treatments for diseases that occur in the human brain, including cancer and Alzheimer's.
"This discovery establishes the zebrafish as a important new model for experimental analysis of meningeal lymphatic development and opens up new avenues for probing meningeal lymphatic function in health and disease," noted the project in Circulation Research.
The eye-catching zebrafish fluorescence microscopy image plus the others in the USPS series are intended to stimulate an interest in the natural world and the techniques used to examine it, hopefully spurring some of the people who see them to pursue the topic further.
"For anyone that is not an expert in the field, microscopy images, with all of their alien, sometimes abstract shapes, may cause confusion; hopefully, this is the good kind of confusion," commented Igor Siwanowicz from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
"Good confusion causes a mental itch that comes with the recognition of a gap in one’s knowledge. Hopefully these stamps will promote that itch within the public and inspire individuals to acquire knowledge to explain the nature of the imaged subject."