For the last 12 years, scientists at Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research at the University of Sydney have been trying to understand the behaviour of the beta-catenin protein, which causes cancer by activating genes in the cell nucleus.

Professor Beric Henderson, head of the gene expression laboratory, said: “We have actually never seen anything like it before. People here were getting very excited by the image.

“It can get very dull and boring. It certainly causes eye strain and some might say some mental health problems as well.”

Senior scientist Dr Manisha Sharma made the discovery, Dr Henderson said the researchers were musing the underlying message.

“There are different ways of looking at it. You could think it’s laughing at us, but I like to think it’s challenging us.”

People have in the past reported the image of Jesus Christ on a host of items – from toast to socks.

And this isn’t the first time a human-like image has been spotted in medicine – a scan showed a Canadian man had an eerie face in a benign growth in his testicle.