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Finding Your Nerve

New software enables super high resolution analysis of brain tissue

27 March 2021

Finding Your Nerve

Like a having a go at ‘Where’s Wally?’, pinpointing cells in electron microscopy (EM) images of tissues is painstaking. However, it’s necessary to create 3D tissue models — this is called segmentation. Any cell running through the tissue must be identified on each slice before images can be aligned and stacked to form a 3D model. This laborious process is now automated using computer algorithms called neural networks. However, current segmentation only works well on high-resolution EM images which are time-consuming to capture. Low-resolution EM images are quicker to capture but cell borders aren’t as clearly defined. Researchers present a new segmentation method using neural networks, DeepACSON. DeepACSON was trained on high-resolution EM images of rat brains and then applied to low-resolution images of injured rat brains. It accurately stitched together 3D models of nerve axons (pictured), revealing tiny ultrastructural changes in response to injury more efficiently than previous methods.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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