Fact Check

Is This a Red Blood Cell on the Tip of a Needle?

A photograph purportedly showing a red blood cell on the tip of a needle is actually a composite of two (or more) images.

Published Mar 1, 2017

A photograph shows a red blood cell on the tip of a needle.
What's True

The image shows a representation of a red blood cell on a needle's point.

What's False

It is not a single photograph, but a composite of two or more images.

An impressive image, purportedly showing a single red blood cell balanced on the tip of a needle, has been making the rounds on the Internet since at least 2011:

The image was created by Steve Gschmeissner, in part using a scanning electron microscope. Gschmeissner explained in a 2012 Reddit thread that the image was colorized (SEMs can only create black and white images) and that it was composed of multiple images from different magnifications:

All the components are taken on a scanning electron microscope and then coloured in Photoshop as electron microscopes use electrons to form images not light so are always B&W. The blood cell on the tip of a needle is a composition of images at very different magnifications put together to simply make an interesting image with no desire to deceive or cause controversy. All my images are authentic in that they are real images of real objects. The attached shows a concept for bone marrow transplantation and is a similar composition to illustrate a visual idea. Hope you can post this and people continue to discuss my work, always happy to answer sensible questions. Regards Steve Gschmeissner

The image was included on Gschmeissner's web site, TheWorldCloseUp.com, in a gallery of images for music posters and album artwork. While we could not find this particular image on an album cover, many of Gschmeissner's other works have been used on album covers by musician Peter Gabriel.

Marc Bessant, who designed the cover for the New Bloodalbum, added a little more context to Gschmeissner's work:

Working again with Steven Gschmeissner, the cover for ‘New Blood’ shows an embryonic stem cell on the tip of a needle (coloured for enhancement), for this sleeve I really wanted something that had a ‘point of origin’, the very beginning of things, along with an object associated with drawing blood or making a new mark;

Steve’s is a fantastic guy to work with, one minute I can say ‘whats a cell on the edge of a razor blade like?’ or ‘can we cut a cell in half?’ and sure enough within 48hrs a scanned electron micrograph drops into my inbox and they are always fascinating to look at.

As per usual, I came up with a number of options to show Peter, but there was something about this shot of Steve’s that really connected, both with the title and the overall theme of Peter’s current crop of audio/video recordings.


Fountain, John.   "5 Minutes with... Marc Bessant, Real World Records."     Creative Pool.   11 September 2012.

Marcbessant.com.   "Peter Gabriel 'New Blood.'"     5 July 2011.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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