Stowers scientists provide insight on NASA’s Webb Telescope images and the science that happens at the Institute

July 12, 2022

Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

KCTV5, the local CBS affiliate in Kansas City, recently sat down with the Stowers Institute for Medical Research’s microscopy team and Executive Director, Alejandro Sanchez Aleverado, PhD to discuss the extraordinary images captured by NASA’s James Webb Telescope.

The Stowers team explained that although microscopes and telescopes are not the same, there are parallels between the way the telescope managed to capture such stunning images, and how the microscopy team at Stowers investigates and examines the cells of organisms.


Story from Betsy Webster, KCTV5.


“The key factor that makes the James Webb telescope work is it’s positioning in space where the impact of atmospheric distortion is minimal,” Jay Unruh, Director of Scientific Data, explained.  “We deal with very similar things here at the Stowers Institute, in that most of our samples scatter light which distorts the signal.  The microscopy and histology departments here at Stowers employ chemical clearing techniques and immerse the samples in special solutions that eliminate those distortions giving a clear picture of the biological signals from complex tissues,” he said.

Stowers scientists do very similar work on a smaller scale using microscopes to study organisms and produce microscopic imaging for scientific research. This helps our investigators make discoveries in their foundational research and apply their findings to study human diseases that do not have cures. These include Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s, cancer, and more. 

Unruh added, “Actually, it often intrigues me that a picture of a galaxy billions of light years away will make the news, but a model of how our cells divide millions of times a second, which we showcase here at Stowers, is completely ignored by the general public.”

To read the full article from KCTV5 and watch the video, click here.