Manually orienting Drosophila (fruit fly) embryos is like trying to balance a grain of rice on its tip. However thanks to a novel microfluidic device, scientists can now trap and right hundreds of embryos in an instant for immediate viewing under the microscope. The neon circles pictured are in fact embryos in which an array of proteins that orchestrate the development of fly muscle, nervous system and skin have been stained. Using a confocal microscope to scan through each embryo, the different layers of proteins become visible. By integrating protein position with the intensity of its colour, researchers will be able to build mathematical models to help understand the signals driving fruit fly development. The process is surprisingly similar to the first stages of human embryo growth.
Written by Rebecca Hill
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