CINCINNATI—The movement or “flow” of fluid and cells inside the body has become an important topic for scientists. It provides clues to organ function and development and can also offer details about disease formation.
But studying flow inside biological systems—especially systems so small that a microscope is needed to get a good look—has been a challenge for researchers.
University of Cincinnati (UC) physiologist Jay Hove, PhD, has been awarded a four-year, $1.53 million grant from the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health to create a tool, a laser-illuminated “4-D camera,” that he hopes will provide scientists with a better way to study cell and fluid movement in three dimensions plus—the fourth D—real time.
Hove, an assistant professor in the genome science department at UC’s Genome Research Institute, will work with colleagues at Caltech and the University of Washington to take Caltech’s prototype 4-D camera technology and redesign it to fit on the end of a microscope.
The team have already begun their work.
“The camera is already down to about the size of a toaster,” says Hove. “We know we can get it to the size it needs to be, but in addition to making it smaller, we have to design the laser technology and rewrite the software it runs on so that it’s actually capable of processing fluid flow inside pulsing, stretching tissues.”
The camera is currently used to measure flow in much larger systems, like ocean water moving around fish or the movement of air around the wings of a plane. An engineer at the University of Washington—responsible for creating the software on the original 4-D camera—will make the necessary adjustments to take this technology to the “biological level.”
Hove, who began his scientific career in California studying the movement of water around swimming fish, now heads up the zebrafish facility at UC’s Genome Research Institute, where he has switched his focus to the inside of these tiny freshwater tropicals.
The zebrafish, or Danio rerio, is transparent and ranges in size from 1 to 2 millimeters as an embryo and only 4 to 5 centimeters when full-grown. Its fast life cycle (the zebrafish heart is fully developed in about five days) makes it an ideal model for studying organ development and disease formation.
Once the camera is down to size, Hove and his colleagues will test it by taking pictures of the zebrafish cardiovascular, renal and nervous systems during early developmental stages.
Hove says he hopes to have the technology ready by the end of grant period and suspects that it will be useful to researchers studying flow not only in zebrafish models, but also in cultured cells and in other animal models where tissues and blood vessels are transparent enough to view.