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Image of the Week: 3D rendering of zebrafish larva cartilage

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new imaging system capable of rapidly producing three-dimensional renderings of thousands of zebrafish larvae and analyzing their physical traits. The automated system could aid drug development, as explained in a release:

Zebrafish are genetically similar to humans and have many of the same developmental pathways, so scientists often use them to model human diseases including cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and autism.

Using the new technology, researchers can grow larvae in tiny wells and flow them through a channel to an imaging platform. Once there, the embryos are rotated and 320 images are taken from different angles, allowing 3-D reconstructions to be made using optical projection tomography (OPT). Getting larvae to the platform takes about 15 seconds, and the imaging takes only 2.5 seconds. This allows hundreds or thousands of larvae to be imaged within hours.


They also created a computer algorithm that can measure hundreds of traits and use that information to create a comprehensive phenotype map — the overall description of an organism’s characteristics — for each larva. This enables rapid and detailed studies of how different drugs affect those phenotypes.

This image above depicts the cartilage that forms the skull of a five-day-old zebrafish larva. Total size of the skull is about 1 millimeter long.

Previously: A very small fish with very big potential and Zebrafish shed light on what happens when we sleep
Photo by MIT News Office

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