Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory have developed a novel microscopy technique to generate "digital embryos," 3D visualizations of early embryonic development down to the position of individual cells and the division of those cells. Their first big success, published recently in the journal Science, is a reconstruction of the first 24 hours of a Zebrafish embryo's development. The resulting movies are quite spectacular. From an EMBL press release:
Two newly developed technologies were key to the scientists' interdisciplinary approach to tracking a living zebrafish embryo from the single cell stage to 20,000 cells: a Digital Scanned Laser Light Sheet Microscope that scans a living organism with a sheet of light along many different directions so that the computer can assemble a complete 3D image, and a large-scale computing pipeline operated at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology…
"The digital embryo is like Google Earth for embryonic development. It gives an overview of everything that happens in the first 24 hours and allows you to zoom in on all cellular and even subcellular details," says Jochen Wittbrodt, who has recently moved from EMBL to the University of Heidelberg and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
The Zebrafish digital embryo(European Molecular Biology Laboratory), "Digital zebrafish embryo" press release (EMBL), "Reconstruction of Zebrafish Early Embryonic Development by Scanned Light Sheet Microscopy" (Science, thanks Mark Pescovitz!)