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Ninouk Akkerman - In vitro phantasia_NA.tif
In Vitro Fantasia
Cells & Tissues

Mixed media on canvas

Inspiration and composition


“If an organoid could dream of the world beyond the well, what would it dream of?” 

In her painting ‘In Vitro Phantasia’, Ninouk imagined the childlike dreamworld of a ‘sleeping’ organoid. She composed it in great detail. Starting on canvas with a printed photograph of her experiment and completing it with paint and preserved flowers such as cherry blossoms and forget-me-nots, the result is a spontaneous, intuitive work.  

In her painting a cross-section of a single organoid is shown, a three-dimensional structure grown from a single cell. By using different molecular dyes, various characteristics of the cells that are present in the organoid come into the spotlight. The blue color, present in all cell types, corresponds to the nuclei of the cells. The red color visualizes where the borders of neighboring cells are. The green dye highlights a protein which is only present in a subset of specialized cells within the organoid, setting them apart from the rest. 

‘In Vitro Phantasia’ symbolizes the new world Ninouk discovers through the microscope. It represents all the possible things that may be happening in and around her sleeping organoids, while they wait for her to observe them. No matter how sensible her hypotheses, chances are that what she sees is completely unexpected. This makes her research - like her art - filled with spontaneity. 


“Visualizing what cannot be seen with the naked eye, is something that intrigues me. That is why I love doing microscopy. When you look at things under the microscope, a brand-new world opens up. My last immunofluorescence staining before the lockdown showed me the wonderful complexity of differentiated organoids. The cells had arranged themselves in mind-boggling structures, in twists and turns, yet remained connected. Whether I find my way or get lost, I never get bored wandering these strange new worlds.” 

The artist

About Ninouk Akkerman

Ninouk’s research examines interactions between cells and their microenvironment using organoids as a model system. 

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