Imperial College London

Cell death seen in 3D for the first time in a whole living organism


An innovative imaging technique has allowed researchers to watch cell death, a process important in cancer, unfold in live zebrafish larvae.

Researchers from Imperial College London in collaboration with University College London have refined a technique called optical projection tomography to image zebrafish larvae, which are nearly transparent.

The team generated zebrafish that includes a biosensor, which is activated by an enzyme in the body associated with cell death. When they triggered cell death in these zebrafish, they were able to watch the activation of the biosensor unfold in 3D.

In the video, see cell death in 3D, highlighted in red colours.

First author Natalie Andrews from Imperial said: “This is the first time we have been able to visualise cell death live over a whole organism in 3D using a non-invasive approach.”

The team hope to refine the technique further so that they can apply it to adult zebrafish to study cancer and test the action of chemotherapy drugs.


'Visualising apoptosis in live zebrafish using fluorescence lifetime imaging with optical projection tomography to map FRET biosensor activity in space and time' by N Andrews et al., is published in Journal of Biophotonics.


Hayley Dunning

Hayley Dunning
Communications Division

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Cancer, Imaging, Strategy-multidisciplinary-research
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