Fact Check-Miscaptioned image was not created with x-ray, nuclear magnetic resonance, and cryo-electron microscopy

Users are sharing an image of an animal cell and falsely claiming that it was obtained with x-ray, nuclear magnetic resonance, and cryo-electron microscopy. Some posts are also misattributing it to the wrong creator.

Examples can be seen here and here .

The text on one post reads: “Digital rendering of the most detailed human cell (obtained with x-ray radiation, nuclear magnetic resonance and cyroelectron microscopy) by Gael McGill.”

A reverse Google images search reveals that the photograph was created by artist Russell Kightley ( He has shared the image on his website (here), Twitter page (here) and Instagram page (here).

In a recent blog post here , Kightley explains that his image of the animal cell has repeatedly gone viral due to misinformation about what it shows.

“The image was created 20 years ago for an educational poster for BioCam,” Kightley wrote in the post. “It took six weeks of full-time work to create using Painter (Fractal Design’s Painter as it was, now it’s managed by Corel).”

BioCam is a company that sells biology wall charts and posters for education (

Kightley says in the post that the image is a generalized animal cell designed as a basic biology educational tool with no specializations or arbitrary use of colors.

“To back up my understanding of cell biology, I read many research and review papers and checked electron micrographs, paying particular attention to the dimensions of organelles and other elements to ensure that everything was as close to scale as possible,” Kightley told Reuters via email. “For the animal cell, I had to create a generalised model featuring all of the organelles studied in high school biology, since the BioCam wall chart would be used in schools, so there was considerable collaboration there to achieve the right balance and clarity.”

A separate illustration of a eukaryotic cell by Gael McGill, director of molecular visualization at Harvard Medical School, is visible here .

The description reads: “Created for Cell Signaling Technology, Inc., and inspired by the stunning art of David Goodsell, this 3D rendering of a eukaryotic cell is modeled using X-ray, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and cryo-electron microscopy datasets for all of its molecular actors. “

It appears that users have confused Kightley’s artistic creation of an animal cell with how McGill modeled his image of the eukaryotic cell.


Miscaptioned. The image was not created using x-ray, nuclear magnetic resonance, and cryo-electron microscopy. A different image was made by another creator using this technology.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .