Chen inserted the Brainbow genes into several embryos to produce the desired research tool, but he soon noticed that one fish had developed a spectacular fluorescent pattern that was confined to the epithelial cells in the outer layer of the skin. Because the epithelial cells don’t divide, Chen and Poss saw a unique opportunity to study a large but relatively finite number of cells in an area of the body that was relatively easy to image. They also saw a chance to narrow their regenerative focus to the skin, which would allow them to image live cells and more readily visualize their movements and other transient behaviors involved in wound repair.
And so, Skinbow was launched. Each cell contains about 100 copies of the Brainbow gene cassette, and Poss estimates that cells could theoretically produce more than 5, 000 distinguishably different colors. Interestingly, the genetically engineered fish have a reddish tint swimming in the aquarium when viewed with the naked eye. To see the Skinbow colors, the zebrafish are imaged with a regular confocal microscope under red, green, and blue light channels, and the images are then combined into works of art like the one above. If you want to see more of these cool images, take a look at this video.