Is this the most detailed representation of a human cell to date, obtained by radiography, nuclear magnetic resonance and cryoelectronic microscopy? No, that's not true: This digital illustration by Russell Kightley is titled "Animal Cell." Kightley used a "Fractal Design Painter" digital art program to create the image for a biology wall chart company about 20 years ago. While humans are animals, the illustration's title does not specify that it is a human cell as many social media posts imply.
The viral climb of this 20-year-old digital illustration may have started when it was shared on April 12, 2021, by Valerie de Bourdeilles. Many copies of the post mysteriously offer credit to de Bourdeilles, who shared the image with a misleading caption that offered no credit to the artist who created it. One example was posted to Facebook on April 13, 2021, with this caption:
The most detailed representation of a human cell to date, obtained by radiography, nuclear magnetic resonance and cryoelectronic microscopy.~ Valerie DeBourdeilles
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Apr 19 19:02:45 2021 UTC)
Animal cell cutaway illustration showing major ultrastructures and organelles (cell membrane, nucleus, nucleolus, nuclear envelope, nuclear pore, centrioles, microtubule, smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER), rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER), ribosomes, polysomes, lysosomes, peroxisomes, mitochondria, and Golgi apparatus). Delimited by a plasma membrane (bi-lipid cell membrane). A centrally placed nucleus houses the genetic material (DNA). Jewel like colours and very fine detail make this image ideal to illustrate complexity at the cellular level. Originally created for BioCam. This image features as a full page colour plate in Richard Dawkins' latest best seller "The Greatest Show on Earth".
Kightley posted a tweet on April 17, 2021. In the comments of the tweet he replied to a compliment, and named the digital art program he used to create the image:
Painted in Fractal Design Painter 20 years ago. Thanks!!
My animal cell image is trending (thanks for all the credits and nice comments!!) Grab a print here: https://t.co/fxdhYSPMPy #scientificillustration #stem #illustration #cytology #sciart This digital painting was done 20 years ago for a poster for https://t.co/ZgN07yv5EN. pic.twitter.com/IvHPkTPgIL-- Russell Kightley (@Kightleys) April 17, 2021