Colloquium on January 21, 2013

Gene Myers
MPI of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden

Building Cellular Models with Light Microscopy

We are now at a time when we can systematically alter animals genetically so that any given protein or its expression can be observed in a targeted set of cells.  Combined with new modalities of light microscopy, this allows us to observe molecular mechanisms within the cell, observe the developmental trajectory of growing organs, and to map the cellular anatomy of organisms and organs such as the brain, the heart, or the stem of a plant.  All this increasingly requires computation to either extract information or to quantitatively measure an effect in the vast sea of images produced by such explorations.  This is creating the growing sub-field of bioimage informatics.

My group is working on a number of imaging projects along these lines.  These include (1) the biophysics of cell division, (2) studies of gene expression in individual cells within the worm C. elegans, (3) a detailed reconstruction of a fly’s brain including the patterning of its development, and (4) the development of a high-throughput microscope to image the volume of an entire mouse brain at 1 micron resolution (4.2 trillion voxels) in less than a week.   I will touch on all these projects as an overview, but will particularly focus on our efforts to build an atlas of a fly’s brain using a tiered “shot-gun” approach to imaging individual neurons.  Among the highlights are (a) a deformable registration method that reveals glomureli in a consensus built over 100’s of brains that cannot be seen in an individual brain, and (b) an annotation system that automatically scores a neuron’s innervation of a brain compartment.

We will close with a vision for our new work in Dresden towards mapping in vivo developmental trajectories in order to hopefully contribute to a deeper understanding of morphogenesis.