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New X-ray method shows how frog embryos could help thwart disease
Date:5/17/2013

LEMONT, Ill. An international team of scientists using a new X-ray method recorded the internal structure and cell movement inside a living frog embryo in greater detail than ever before.

This result showcases a new method to advance biological research and the search for new treatments for genetic diseases.

Scientists at Northwestern University and the Karlsruher Institut fr Technologie in Germany, in collaboration with the Advanced Photon Source at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, released the most precise depiction ever of the embryonic development of African clawed frogs, one of the most frequently studied model organisms in biology.

The results titled "X-ray phase-contrast in vivo microtomography probes new aspects of Xenopus gastrulation" were published May 16 in the journal Nature.

The team X-rayed an embryo during gastrulation, the period when its hundreds of cells start to organize into differentiated tissues that eventually form the nervous system, muscles and internal organs. Studies of African clawed frog embryos can provide clues to the evolution of vertebrates and how human genes turn on or off to create diseases.

Until now, however, it has been difficult to study these embryos. Classical absorption imaging requires a contrast agent and large X-ray dose that can harm living organisms. Researchers from the German synchrotron ANKA proposed a new method of nondestructive analysis using X-ray diffraction. The work was done at the APS outside Chicago because the APS's high-energy X-rays were required to prevent blurring of the image and damage to the sensitive embryos.

"To obtain the best possible results, a highly coherent high-energy X-ray source with high flux is necessary," said Xianghui Xiao, a scientist at the APS who collaborated on the work. "The APS is one of only a few X-ray lightsources in the world with this capability. The upgrade of the APS will further improve our ability to
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Contact: Jared Sagoff
jsagoff@anl.gov
630-252-5549
DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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