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Digitizing cellular behaviours during embryogenesis


The invariant development and transparent body of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans enables complete delineation of cell lineages throughout development. Despite extensive studies of cell division, cell migration and cell fate differentiation, cell morphology during development has not yet been systematically characterized in any metazoan, including C. elegans. This knowledge gap significantly hampers many studies in both developmental and cell biology. To address this issue, we propose to develop an automated pipeline, which combines automated segmentation of fluorescently labeled membranes with automated cell lineage tracing. We will apply this pipeline to quantify morphological parameters of densely packed cells in developing C. elegans embryos. Consequently, we will generate a time-lapse 3D digitized cell morphologies for the C. elegans embryogenesis, including cell shape, volume, surface area, migration, nucleus position and cell-cell contact with resolved cell identities. We expect the results will stimulate and enhance further studies in the fields of image processing, developmental biology, cell biology and biomechanics.

Required skills

Image segmentation or signal processing.

Principal Investigator


Dr. Zhao

Prof. Zhongying Zhao

Professor, Department of Biology




Dr. Chen

Dr. Jie Chen

Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science