Beating hearts at high resolution: adaptive high-resolution selective plane illumination microscopy
Filming life as it develops in the heart is a very challenging task. Firstly, the heart is beating, and therefore moving: to assess development, images need to be taken at the same phase in the heart's cycle. Secondly, the heart is embedded in a body, so it must be imaged at depth. The movement and the depth create difficulties for conventional imaging techniques. What is wanted is a technique to produce a three-dimensional image from deep inside a specimen, with a time resolution fast enough to see changes and without killing the specimen!
This project involves physicists, geneticists and biologists and combines techniques from different specialist areas. Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy (SPIM) is used for imaging deep into samples, illuminating the sample from the side and lighting only a thin layer of the sample at a time. Images can then be taken at any required depth. Scanning this way allows a set of images to build up to a three-dimensional image. However, because SPIM is used to image deep into samples, there are problems with aberrations or distortions. To combat this, the research will combine it with adaptive optics techniques, originally developed for astronomers trying to image stars clearly.
The study will start by imaging zebrafish embryos, an increasingly favoured developmental biology model, being cheap and transparent and developing a heart system in the same way as other vertebrates. Following work with zebrafish, mouse embryos will be used.
The goal of the project is to understand how a human heart is built and, hence, to determine how to prevent cardiac malformation. The combination of SPIM and adaptive optics should allow the production of a valuable high-resolution three-dimensional model of embryonic heart development.
Wolfson Fellows: Professor Gordon Love, Professor John Girkin
Other Durham University researchers: Professor Roy Quinlan, Dr Jonathan Taylor
Other organizations: Institute of Human Genetics, Newcastle University
Keywords: microscopy, adaptive optics, SPIM, zebrafish, heart development, high resolution imaging