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VIDEO: Fruit Fly Development in 3D

Andrew S. Wiecek

Using a new selective-plane illumination microscopy technique, researchers have imaged the first hours of a fruit fly's life in 3D.

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There’s much that happens in the first few hours of a fruit fly's life. Groups of cells part to help form the mesoderm, other cells migrate from the rear to back of the embryo, and others come together to close a gap in the its back. And now, for the first time, you can watch all of theses changes unfold in 3D.

That’s thanks to a new microscopy technique developed by researcher Lars Hufnagel’s group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. The technique is called multi-view selective-plane illumination microscopy (SPIM), which takes the recent interest in SPIM techniques to a new level (1).

With SPIM, researchers use thin beams of light to illuminate their living specimen in an effort to avoid damaging their specimen with harmful, intense light sources. The multi-view SPIM microscope furthers this technique by imaging the specimen from four different angles, resulting in a 3D image of the sample.

"This video shows a fruit fly embryo from when it was about two-and-a-half hours old until it walked away from the microscope as a larva, 20 hours later," said Hufnagel in a statement. "It shows all the hallmarks of fruit fly embryonic development in three dimensions."


  1. Tomer, R., K. Khairy, F. Amat, and P. J. Keller. 2012. Quantitative high-speed imaging of entire developing embryos with simultaneous multiview light-sheet microscopy. Nat Meth advance online publication(June).

Keywords:  microscopy