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A zebrafish’s first minutes of life caught on film

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.


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    Eva Amsen said:

    Hi Ewen! You may vaguely remember me from I now work at Development, where I am community manager for the Node, a site about developmental biology. One of our users linked to this post, and I thought it might be nice to embed the YouTube video as well, but it’s an unlisted video, so I’m not sure whether it would be okay to do so. Did you ask the authors if you could post it with credit, and if so, could you put me in touch so I can ask the same? The video is perfect for the Node… (e-mail address left with comment, so that should be somewhere you can see it.)

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