New view of developing embryos


Rebecca Pool

Tuesday, April 9, 2019 - 16:00
Novel system to image structural and molecular changes in developing embryos.
US-based researchers are developing a system to simultaneously image embryonic structural development and the molecular dynamics in the developing circulatory system, pointing the way to treatments that could help to avoid miscarriage, foetal death and birth defects.
Current studies demand optical coherence tomography to collect high-resolution images of structural growth and changes as well as 3D fluorescence imaging, such as light sheet microscopy, to observe cellular changes.
But as Mayerich point out: "When you look at an embryo, things happen at two scales, structural and molecular... It just hasn't been possible to see both changes at the same time because the imaging systems used to capture them aren't compatible.”
According to the researcher, even a short time lag between images taken with OCT and microscopy can make it impossible to synchronise structural and chemical changes.
However, the new system will merge both imaging methods and align them in 3D, using custom-software to synchronise data collection.
Researchers from the University of Houston and Baylor College of Medicine are developing a new technology to allow simultaneous imaging of both embryonic structural development and the molecular underpinnings that occur in the developing circulatory system.
As Mayerich's colleague, Professor Kirill Larin from Biomedical Engineering at UH highlights, technical challenges include the fact that the two imaging systems typically use different wavelengths of light.
Using one microscopic lens for both OCT and microscopy will require overlapping optical paths.
Mayerich and his lab will also determine how to interpret the resulting aligned images, identifying and measuring components including blood vessels, blood flow and individual cells as they change over time.
Ultimately, the researchers hope to identify biomarkers correlated with certain birth defects, improving early detection.
"It's technically very difficult," says Larin. "But it will help us to grasp a fundamental understanding of the process.”
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