Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Tracing individual cells during embryonic development using triggerable fluorescent marker and software

19 September 2020

Prime Movers

From its earliest stages, life is on the move. As these lively mouse embryonic cells swirl around they also divide, setting their descendants on different paths to become tissues and organs, even before they imbed in the womb. The fragile nature of embryonic cells, coupled with their erratic movement, makes following early development a challenge, even with advanced microscope tracking software. But here researchers give the cells a special fluorescent protein ‘primed’ to change from green to red (seen in purple here). Triggering this switch in one of the embryo’s first four cells provides a reference point to light sheet microscopy coupled with new computer software, reorienting the embryo and stabilising the video. These techniques should make it easier to study the lineage of embryonic cells, revealing the secrets of these first moments of life.

Written by John Ankers

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