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New 3D Software Can Track Embryo's Brain Development

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Scientists can now track an embryo's brain activity and development, thanks to an open-source three-dimensional software. This new ground breaking development is now accessible to scientists who want to track the development of neuronal structure cells in a worm's body.

Understanding the processes of the human brain is challenging, especially when it comes to the development of complex neuronal structures. To have a better grasp of this information, scientists are first examining their theories on simpler organisms like worms.

Animal models with simpler structures make it possible for scientists to study brain processes. The researchers studied Caenorhabditis elegans, which contains only 302 neurons 222 of which form during the worm's embryonic development.

Scientists have tackled the key proteins that regulate the neurons' movement during brain development. However, the process in which these proteins intermingle in a cell at this stage of development is still unknown.

"Understanding why and how neurons form and the path they take to reach their final destination could one day give us valuable information about how proteins and other molecular factors interact during neuronal development," Hari Shroff from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) research team said.

In the study published in the open source journal eLife on Dec. 3, researchers at NIBIB and the Center for Information Technology (CIT), said that the new equipment will be important in their plan to develop a four-dimensional (4D) neurodevelopmental worm diagram or an atlas to study how the nervous system of a worm forms.

The new project is the pioneer widespread study that tracks how a total nervous system develops. This may shed light in the study of more complex brain and nervous systems, even in humans.

Shroff said that they still do not fully understand neurodevelopment - even a simple worm's. However, they are using the device to comprehend how certain factors work to drive the growth of the worm brain.

The team plans to develop microscopes that can record worm embryogenesis. They hope that even without light exposure, this will have the needed resolution to clearly see individual cells, which will help in documenting processes that happen during embryonic brain development.

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