Maybe Santa will bring me some high end optical gear for Christmas this year

I admit, I drooled a little bit: HHMI has developed this cool gadget for imaging embryos. It’s got everything: a culture chamber for mouse embryos, the latest light-sheet imaging tech, and fancy digital processing so no matter how the embryo rolls or drifts, it realigns the image. It’s been built by Phillip Keller, who did some amazing work with visualizing zebrafish.

Until now, the best views of living embryos came from fish and flies. A decade ago, Keller and colleagues developed the first “digital embryo” of the zebrafish, a kind of see-through, striped minnow often studied by scientists.

Fish embryos have the advantage that they’re shaped more like a ribbon draped over a ball of yolk, which means you can almost ignore one dimension. Mice start out sort of 2-dimensional too, but are eventually shaped like little balls with all kinds of movement in 3 dimensions over time. I’m finding that spider embryos are similarly obnoxiously thick. But look at what this machine can do!

Also, amazingly, they’re giving it all away for free. The software is all downloadable, along with plans for building the scope (building one from scratch is still out of my budget, though), and they offer free access to the instrument out at Janelia Farm. Maybe someday — I’m still working on just getting reliable embryo production and am thinking about some basic genetics, and years from now when I’m ready to do some advanced digital imaging, maybe they’ll come in boxes of Cracker Jack.

Or better yet, some of my students will move on to do it for me.


  1. Snidely W says

    “They can follow every cell and pinpoint where it went, what genes it turned on, and what cells it met along the way.”

    Holy crap!

  2. Owlmirror says

    Y’know, if you Fedex them some spider eggs, they might be willing to send back some videos of them developing. . .

  3. Dr. Pablito says

    “Yesterday’s sensation is today’s calibration and tomorrow’s demonstration.”

  4. wzrd1 says

    Well, I sat on Santa’s lap and asked for a nice lab grade microscope.
    He told me that I was too fat and get the hell off of his lap.
    So, eventually, I’ll just splurge and buy one.
    Then, end up buying a field microscope. Thinking of the Swift FM-31LWD.*

    Still, if PZ were to put up a Go Fund Me site, I’m sure a few shekels would accumulate quickly enough to pay for someone to assemble the rig.

    *We had, believe it or not, transmission electron microscopes in my junior high school and a much more modern (think 1970’s) model in our high school. All, donated to the school by alumni. I was one of the rare students competent enough to be trusted to operate it.
    As I was in the microscope club and television studio (I became technical director eventually, which also involved repairing to component level every television in the school and the TV studio equipment. Working on the EIAJ real to real TVR’s, not a big deal. Working on the aged 2 inch Ampex reel to real was an obscenity, but I managed it.).
    Needless to say, from the television repairs, I had a really good idea on electron beam manipulation and limiting beam current (especially after burning a couple of grids through).
    Yeah, only a pair. While we had plenty of grids to spare, samples that we prepared took a fair amount of effort.
    Waste not, don’t find your shoe laces tied together! ;)
    And yes, I’m serious about the postscript. As true and plumb as an surveyor’s transit. We also had an observatory, dome and all, at the junior high school.
    Alas, had, it’s all gone now. Chemistry lab actually used M&M’s as a stand in for chemicals and even hydroxic acid was prohibited from the lab.

  5. chris61 says

    Just an FYI for those suggesting a GoFundMe. It’s not going to do PZ any good until he has some transgenic spiders (with GFP or one of its derivatives in their nuclei).