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Hardware for visualising, quantifying and studying developing embryos

What is OpenVIM?

OpenVIM is an open-source modular video microscope developed by a team of scientists to record the dynamic process of biological development in large numbers of aquatic embryos over prolonged periods. It has proven effective for capturing complex responses of embryos and larvae and is supporting a new approach to visualising this fascinating period.

See: Embryonic Development Vimeo Channel for samples of the types of video produced using OpenVIM.

How does OpenVIM differ from a traditional microscope?

A number of things make OpenVIM different to a traditional microscope

  • OpenVIM is entirely digital and does not contain eye pieces, unlike a traditional microscope. It relies on a high quality machine vision camera and zooming lens to acquire images.
  • OpenVIM uses optics with a high depth of field - allowing the entire depth of large numbers of embryos to be acquired in focus over prolonged periods
  • OpenVIM can encompass tight control over the embryonic environment (temperature, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity) over a prolonged period
  • OpenVIM uses an automated XY stages to enable the acquisition of images of multiple embryos over a prolonged period.
  • OpenVIM is controlled using MicroManager an open-source plugin for image acquisition, run within ImageJ, the popular image analysis software
  • OpenVIM is versatile - optics, cameras, motorised stages, lighting, incubation requirements can all be chosen to be most applicable to an application or budget

What can OpenVIM do?

Capturing the dynamic process of embryonic development in large numbers of embryos, whilst maintaining an experimental treatment is formidible. OpenVIM was designed to capture images of many embryos at different temporal scales, allowing both biological responses apparent in realtime and responses that are only visible over longer temporal scales to be captured. OpenVIM can run automously over prolonged periods. It has been used for experiments lasting from just a few hours, to experiments running over several months.

What species has OpenVIM been used to visualise?

OpenVIM has been used to visualise the early life stages of a range of species, including marine and freshwater gastropods, jelly fish, marine amphipods, single celled Protozoa and fish. See here for a full breakdown of which species have been visualised including, where available, a link to some sample video and any publications that have resulted.

Building an OpenVIM

OpenVIM combines off-the-shelf parts, with some custom machined parts.

See choosing components and the assembly instructions for more information.

You can also download PDFs containing: a list of potential components, component specifications and an assembly guide.

The Embryo-phenomics user group can also be used to ask any questions or share experiences.


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