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Technique makes it easier to see mouse embryo in all its glory

A fast, high-resolution, 3D mouse embryo visualization technique developed by collaborators at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of Utah will revolutionize the way birth defects and cancer genes are studied in animal models. That's the prediction of the researchers in an article to be published online in PLoS Genetics on April 28, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal from the Public Library of Science.

The new tool, called Virtual Histology, has already boosted the researchers' ability to study the mouse embryo and more rapidly focus on abnormalities of development, including childhood cancers. Birth defects are diagnosed in 150,000 babies in the U.S. annually. Suspected causes are genetic abnormalities, environmental insults, and drug and chemical exposures.

Charles Keller, M.D., assistant professor at the Children's Cancer Research Institute (CCRI) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is studying ways to improve treatment of two types of childhood cancers '" brain tumors called medulloblastomas and muscle tumors called alveolar rhabdomyosarcomas. Dr. Keller, a pediatric oncologist, moved to the CCRI from the University of Utah in 2005, and continues his collaborations with engineers and computer scientists at Utah's Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute. Dr. Keller routinely works with mouse embryos in trying to understand the role of developmentally regulated genes in the types of cancers that children sometimes acquire. The study of genetically modified embryos and their birth defects is usually a slow and laborious process, but Dr. Keller and colleagues have found a way to make the analysis much faster '" and more accurate.

Traditional histology involves embedding embryos in wax, thinly slicing the wax and delicately placing it on slides, staining the sections and viewing slides under the microscope, then mentally reconstructing the three-dimensional aspect
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Source:Public Library of Science


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