New Microscope Tracks Cells as They Move and Divide

The transformation of a fertilized egg into a functioning animal requires thousands of cell divisions and intricate rearrangements of those cells. That process is captured with unprecedented speed and precision by a new imaging technology which lets users track each cell in an embryo as it takes shape over hours or days.

In a single movie—a compilation of a million images captured over about 20 hours—viewers can see biological structures begin to emerge as a simple cluster of cells morphs into an elongated body with tens of thousands of densely packed cells. The movie concludes when the embryo begins to twitch, driven by contractions of its newly formed muscles—moments before the hatching of a fruit fly larva just half a millimeter long.
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