For many of us, the wonders of cell biology came alive when we peered through a microscope at an amoeba in science class. Today, a new online image library of cells brings that same sense of wonder and magic to anyone with an Internet connection. The library contains more than 1,000 images, videos, and animations of cells from a variety of organisms — from the Chinese hamster (Cricetulus griseus) to humans (Homo sapiens). The database aims to advance research on cellular activity with the ultimate goal of improving human health, according to the American Society for Cell Biology, which has created the database in partnership with Glencoe Software and the Open Microscopy Environment.
“In our research of disease, one of the key features is to understand the mechanism of disease — and that is going to happen, in many cases, at the cellular level,” David Orloff, manager of The Cell image library, told me. For example, the library will make it possible for scientists to compare different cell types online and understand the nature of specific cells and cellular processes, both normal and abnormal. This may lead to new discoveries about diseases, as well as new targets for drug development.