Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Microscopy advances facilitate visualisation of embryo development

During development, various mechanisms that break symmetry and induce body plan specification take place. European scientists developed a novel imaging technique that allowed them to characterise these events in detail.
Microscopy advances facilitate visualisation of embryo development
Embryonic development is a complex process of cellular and morphogenetic events that are highly regulated in both time and space. Despite advances in molecular biology techniques, most developmental biology studies do not offer the necessary cellular resolution or are limited to qualitative investigation using fixed embryos. As a result, we lack information on fundamental mechanisms involving the dynamic and stochastic interaction of large groups of cells. In addition, we do not completely understand how local cell-cell interactions lead to the emergence of highly organised tissue-scale structures.

In answer to this, the EU-funded INTOTOMORPHOGENESIS (In toto imaging of embryonic morphogenesis: Collective cell movements and symmetry breaking) project studied the challenging issues of morphogenesis using a multi-scale and dynamic approach. For this purpose, they employed fluorescent reporters, microscopy and image processing, making it possible to visualise the dynamics of large cell populations in the developing embryo.

The in toto imaging concept provided a unique opportunity to study cellular mechanisms from the cell level to that of the entire organ or organism in a quantitative manner. The main challenges researchers had to overcome were the potential interference of the in toto imaging with normal biology and embryo viability. In addition, the complexity of the generated data required computational analysis.

In this context, the science teams developed a 2-photon excited fluorescence light-sheet microscopy technique that provided improved imaging depth, acquisition speed and low invasiveness. Following validation in model organisms such as zebrafish and Drosophila, scientists used this technique in various studies alongside adapted image processing tools and data analysis innovations.

Overall, this technique allowed the detailed study of heart development and axis specification in early embryos, as well as functional imaging of the brain. Undoubtedly, it constitutes a powerful tool that will facilitate future research into essential biological queries with unprecedented detail.

Related information


Microscopy, embryo development, INTOTOMORPHOGENESIS, in toto imaging, morphogenesis
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