Confocal microscopy enables us to track myocytes in the embryonic zebrafish heart. The Zeiss LSM 5 Live high speed confocal microscope has been used to take optical sections (at 3 μm intervals and 151 frames per second) through a fluorescently labeled zebrafish heart at two developmental stages (26 and 34 hours post fertilization (hpf)). This data provides unique information allowing us to conjecture on the morphology and biomechanics of the developing vertebrate heart. Nevertheless, the myocytes, whose positions could be determined in a reliable manner, were located sparsely and mostly in one side of the heart tube. This difficulty was overcome using computational methods, that give longitudinal, radial and circumferential displacements of the myocytes as well as their contractile behavior. Applied strain analysis has shown that in the early embryonic heart tube, only the caudal region (near the in-flow) and another point in the middle of the tube can be active; the rest appears to be mostly passive. This statement is based on the delay between major strain and displacement which a material point experiences. Wave-like propagation of all three components of the displacement, especially in the circumferential direction, as well as the almost-periodic changes of the maximum strain support the hypothesis of helical muscle structure embedded in the tube. Changes of geometry in the embryonic heart after several hours are used to verify speculations about the structure based on the earlier images and aforementioned methods.
With the availability of new confocal laser scanning microscopes, fast biological processes, such as the blood flow in living organisms at early stages of the embryonic development, can be observed with unprecedented time resolution. When the object under study has a periodic motion, e.g. a beating embryonic heart, the imaging capabilities can be extended to retrieve 4D data. We acquire nongated slice-sequences at increasing depth and retrospectively synchronize them to build dynamic 3D volumes. Here, we present a synchronization procedure based on the temporal correlation of wavelet features. The method is designed to handle large data sets and to minimize the influence of artifacts that are frequent in fluorescence imaging techniques such as bleaching, nonuniform contrast, and photon-related noise.
Being able to acquire, visualize, and analyze 3D time series (4D data) from living embryos makes it possible to understand complex dynamic movements at early stages of embryonic development. Despite recent technological breakthroughs in 2D dynamic imaging, confocal microscopes remain quite slow at capturing optical sections at successive depths. However, when the studied motion is periodic—such as for a beating heart—a way to circumvent this problem is to acquire, successively, sets of 2D+time slice sequences at increasing depths over at least one time period and later rearrange them to recover a 3D+time sequence. In other imaging modalities at macroscopic scales, external gating signals, e.g., an electro-cardiogram, have been used to achieve proper synchronization. Since gating signals are either unavailable or cumbersome to acquire in microscopic organisms, we have developed a procedure to reconstruct volumes based solely on the information contained in the image sequences. The central part of the algorithm is a least-squares minimization of an objective criterion that depends on the similarity between the data from neighboring depths. Owing to a wavelet-based multiresolution approach, our method is robust to common confocal microscopy artifacts. We validate the procedure on both simulated data and in vivo measurements from living zebrafish embryos.