Developing Live Imaging Technologies for Researchers

The image is zoomed in on the zebrafish head, with the eye (pink) and various vessel (green) visible against a black background.

Live imaging still image from an intubated, adult zebrafish.
Credit: Weinstein Lab, NICHD

Zebrafish are model organisms for a variety of scientific disciplines. Historically, zebrafish were used by scientists interested in early embryonic development. Today, zebrafish use has expanded and includes researchers who study cancer, diabetes, obesity, tissue regeneration, and more. However, zebrafish researchers are limited by traditional imaging technologies, which can only image a live adult fish for about 10 to 30 minutes. A longer duration would enable scientists to answer more questions about tissue regeneration, the immune system, or the efficacy of potential therapies.

Researchers in the Weinstein Lab reported new, detailed methods that keep adult zebrafish healthy and alive for high-resolution imaging up to one day. The same fish can also be imaged repeatedly over the course of a week without problems. The new system uses a 3D-printed chamber and associated rig for imaging and is designed to be compatible with commonly used biomedical microscopes. All of the instructions, including two different designs for the chamber and how to intubate fish, are available for download.

To showcase the new methods, the team imaged neutrophil recruitment to a wound site and found that these immune cells do not appear until two to three hours after injury—a timeframe that would have been impossible to visualize using previous methods. The team also found that their method works for cavefish, another aquatic model organism. Laboratories can now adapt these new techniques for long-term, high-resolution imaging of zebrafish or other fish models in their own studies.

Learn more about the Aquatic Models of Human Development Group:

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