The swirling, rotating rainbow of dots in this video is a 3D reconstruction of cell movements in a developing fruit fly embryo. Each dot represents a single cell nucleus, and the dots’ tails represent the last five minutes of the cells’ trajectories. Advances in microscopy have enabled the recording of such embryonic cell movements for some time, but gathering meaningful information from the associated terabytes of image data has been stymied by a lack of computing power – until now. Computational scientists have devised complex algorithms that allow the rapid, accurate and simultaneous tracking of many thousands of cells – their divisions and movements – over many hours of development. And not just in flies – they’ve also tracked cells in developing fish and mouse embryos. This technology should reveal not only how cells move in normal tissue and organ development, but also how erroneous movements lead to developmental defects.
Written by Ruth Williams
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.