"This method allows us to visualize how embryos develop in more detail and with greater clarity than ever before," says physician Teri Jo Mauch, a pediatric kidney specialist at the University of Utah School of Medicine. "We can look at three different genes in the same embryo at the same time even when they overlap. We haven't been able to do that before in higher vertebrates such as birds and mammals."
She says the technique also allows scientists to combine two-dimensional images of embryos in a computer to create a "three-dimensional image that we can rotate on a computer screen to examine the relationships between developing tissues and organs. There's a lot we don't know about how embryos develop. This technique will help us sort some of that out."
Mauch says the new method should help research aimed at combating birth defects and creating artificial organs such as kidneys for people whose own organs have failed.
A University of Utah study describing development of the new method was published in the March 2004 issue of the journal Developmental Dynamics. Mauch an associate professor of pediatrics and adjunct associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy conducted the study with Pilar Garcia-Villalba, a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology; Nathaniel Denkers, a laboratory specialist; Christopher Rodesch, a microscope and imaging expert at the medical school; and Kandice Nielson, a pre-med student.
The new method combines and expands upon three existing technologies for detecting genes: (1) in situ hybridization (ISH), a technique used to detect genetic material (DNA and RNA) in individual cells; (2) immunohist