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Scientists can now track life from its smallest form

Researchers have developed software that can track how an embryo grows, cell by cell.


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Posted on Jul 22, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 10:16 pm CDT


The earliest stages of life have been the subject of intense fascination for eons. Aristotle, for instance, observed and recorded the development of a chicken embryo in its egg.

He needed something the size of a hen’s egg to see what was going on, of course. But modern microscopes allow scientists to see not just the larva of a fruit fly, but each of 100,000 or so cells in that larva as they form, move and propagate as organs appear and the larva takes its shape.

But whereas Aristotle could easily analyze what he saw, the flood of data that new technology produces has overwhelmed the analytic abilities of scientists and many computers. It’s one thing to see every cell, but another to keep track of what they all do.

Now Fernando Amat, Philipp J. Keller and colleagues at Janelia Farm, a Virginia research campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, have developed software that can track each and every cell in a developing embryo.

Read the full story in the New York Times.

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*First Published: Jul 22, 2014, 10:43 am CDT