Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Stitched Up

New software BigStitcher that enables high-resolution reconstruction of tissue images

21 September 2019

Stitched Up

The brain’s processing power easily surpasses the most advanced supercomputer, yet information technology can still help us to understand our nervous systems. Mapping out connections of this developing fruit fly’s nervous system, the sophisticated computer algorithms of a new software called BigStitcher work alongside two microscopy techniques: expansion microscopy, to swell and inflate the tiny tissues under the lens, and light sheet microscopy to take thousands of virtual 'slices' through the cells. Each coloured area is a huge 3D image (carrying many gigabytes of data) virtually reassembled into a mosaic ‘map’ of the whole nervous system. The next challenge is interpreting the information – perhaps calling on algorithms again to help follow the snaking paths of each individual nerve cell or neuron – and deciphering clues about common neuronal patterns found in ‘higher’ organisms like humans.

Written by John Ankers

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