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Fruitfly Development, Cell by Cell

from Nature News

In an advance that could transform our understanding of the complex cellular dynamics underlying development of animals, researchers have developed a method to track individual cells in a developing fly embryo in real time. Two papers published on the Nature Methods website today describe similar versions of the microscopic technique.

Understanding how an embryo develops from two parental germ cells into an organism with an organized, communicating and interactive group of systems is a difficult task. To date, most studies have only been able to track pieces of that development in animals such as the zebrafish Danio rerio or the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. A more comprehensive understanding of the whole process and what drives it could inform research on diseases such as cancer, and help in the development of regenerative stem-cell therapies.

Current light-sheet microscopy techniques involve illuminating one side of the sample. Either one side of a developing organism is imaged continuously, or two sides are viewed alternately, with the resultant data reconstructed to form a three-dimensional view. However, viewing from one side at a time means that the cells cannot be tracked as they migrate from top to bottom, and rotating the sample to view both sides takes so much time that when the next image is taken the cells have changed, so that they no longer line up.

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