Forget baby pictures – proud cell biologists can now show off videos of their growing zebrafish beginning at the earliest stages of development, thanks to a new microscope technology described online today in Science (doi: 10.1126/science.1189428).
The technique relies on non-linear optical properties of a cell’s membrane and microtubules to rapidly capture numerous still images that are then stitched into a fast-forwarded movie. Existing microscopy techniques lacked either the ability to snap images quickly enough to make useful movies or to see deeply into embryos.
Emmanuel Beaurepaire, of CNRS and INSERM in Palaiseu, France, and colleagues used the technique to capture the first 10 cell divisions of a zebrafish, as it morphed from a single fertilized egg into a roughly 1000-cell embryo. They found that cells begin dividing out of step as soon as the second division, and division become progressively more asynchronous.
This clip shows the process from one cell to the 512-cell stage. The scale bar in both videos represents 100 micrometres
This next film shows the entire process beginning after the first division, with the cells in blue and their mitotic spindles in green.
Although the embryos in these videos are not labelled with any dyes, the researchers say that combining their technique with fluorescent molecular markers could make it an even more powerful tool for visualizing the early development of zebrafish and other vertebrates. So you may want to stay tuned to YouTube’s embryo development channel.
Videos courtesy of M. Oliver, M. Luengo-Oroz, L. Duloquin, E. Daure, T. Savy, I. Veilleux, X. Solinas, D. Debarre, P. Bourgine, A. Santos, N. Peyrieras and E. Beaurepaire.