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Mouse embryo animation
Ian Smyth, Monash University
Three-dimensional animation created from optical projection tomography (OPT) data that shows the developing organs of a mouse embryo at embryonic day 12 (E12). The whole embryo is imaged and positioned with the head at the top, with the tail curling round to the front.
What does this animation show?
The embryo was stained for E-cadherin, a protein that plays an important role in the formation of cell-cell interaction in epithelial tissue. Because epithelial cells line the inner and outer surfaces of many organs of the body, this staining shows the structure of the organs as they form. A large area of staining is seen in the face and the eyes are clearly marked. Also seen in this animation is the developing respiratory tract: the small branched lungs can be seen descending from the head region. The developing urogenital tract is observed at the bottom of the image. At this stage the ureteric bud has just formed and is starting to branch and will ultimately form the kidneys.
Why is 3D imaging useful?
Understanding what something looks like and its 3D structure is invaluable, especially when investigating embryonic development - during which tissues undergo a number of structural changes relative to each other. Standard imaging techniques involve cutting hundreds of thin sections through the sample or 'optically sectioning' through the tissue using techniques such as the confocal microscope and reconstructing the data into a 3D model using computer software, but all these imaging technologies have certain constraints.
Developments in 3D imaging (such as OPT) aim to provide alternative and more accurate ways of visualising biological samples. The ability to produce high-resolution structural information, as well as identifying how gene expression maps to these structural changes, provides greater understanding of function. 3D imaging is also an essential learning and diagnostic tool in medicine as it allows doctors to visualise what the structure looks like and identify when things go wrong.