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Researchers Combine OCT and 3D Microscopy to Image Embryos

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To help researchers and clinicians better understand the cellular-level events that occur during embryonic development, a team from the University of Houston and Baylor College of Medicine is developing a new technology to allow simultaneous imaging of embryonic structural development and the molecular underpinnings that occur in the developing circulatory system.

The new system will merge OCT, used to collect high-resolution images of structural growth, and 3D fluorescence imaging such as light sheet microscopy, used to observe cellular changes. The researchers will align the two techniques in 3D using specially designed software to synchronize the data collection.

New imaging technology for observing development of embryo's circulatory system, University of Houston.

Researchers are developing a new technology to allow simultaneous imaging of both embryonic structural development and the molecular underpinnings that occur in the developing circulatory system. Courtesy of University of Houston.

“When you look at an embryo, things happen at two scales, structural and molecular,” professor David Mayerich said. Until now, he said, it has not been possible to observe changes on both levels at the same time because the imaging systems used to capture these changes were not compatible. Even a short time lag between images taken with OCT and with microscopy can make it impossible to synchronize the structural and chemical changes, Mayerich said. 

The two imaging systems typically use different wavelengths of light, a technical challenge that the Houston-Baylor team will need to overcome. Using one microscopic lens for both OCT and microscopy will require overlapping optical paths. The researchers will also need to determine how to interpret the resulting aligned images, by identifying and measuring components of the developing circulatory system, including blood vessels, blood flow, and individual cells, as they change over time. Ultimately, the researchers hope to identify biomarkers correlated with certain birth defects, improving early detection. 

“It’s technically very difficult, but it will help us to grasp a fundamental understanding of the process,” said professor Kirill Larin, an expert in using OCT to study developmental biology. The research could potentially lead to treatments that could help avoid miscarriage, fetal death, and birth defects.


Jul/Aug 2019
Research & TechnologyeducationUniversity of HoustonAmericasimaginglight sourcesmicrocsopyopticslight sheet microscopy3D imagingmedical imagingmedicalBiophotonicsembryonic developmentBioScan

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