Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Time Machine Learning

New microscope allows the fate of cells to be tracked in the developing embryo

22 November 2018

Time Machine Learning

The earliest stages of life are delicate, challenging scientists to come up with new ways observe without disturbing. Here they’ve turned to a form of time travel. Seen from above (top row) or the side (bottom), gentle light sheet microscopy captures individual cells (grey) in a mouse embryo as they grow and develop. Eventually the cells separate into stripes (right) destined to form different tissues. Following these developments backwards in time, (from right to left), a form of machine learning uses multi-coloured blobs to trace each cell’s ancestry, highlighting, for example, that the green-coloured cells on the left share the same lineage as the green cells in the early brain – the neural tube – on the right. Understanding the timings of this separation into layers of cells – a process called gastrulation – will help to improve the picture of early development as well as problems that may lead to miscarriage.

Written by John Ankers

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