MRC Human Genetics Unit
Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit

Optical Projection Tomography

Optical Projection Tomography microscopy- a technique for 3D microscopy.

One of the clear challenges for microscopy in the postgenomic era is efficient mapping of gene expression patterns into 3D tissues.  Existing techniques for high resolution imaging were limited either by the depth of specimen they could image, or, for methods allowing larger specimens, the ability to image coloured and fluorescent dyes. Dr James Sharpe (Postdoctoral Fellow, 1998–2006), Professor Richard Baldock (Professor of Biomedical Systems Analysis, 1986–present) and Dr Duncan Davidson (Biomedical Systems Analyst, 1964–2010) — developed the Optical Projection Tomography (OPT) microscopy technique which was described for the first time in a seminal paper in Science in April 2002. This completely novel 3D imaging technique initially allowed visualization of mRNA expression for the Sox9 gene in a whole mouse embryo, and identified new phenotypic abnormalities in Bapx1 (Nkx3.2)-null mice.  The technique was commercialised through the formation of Bioptonics, an Edinburgh based company, and generated revenues of £2M for the MRC.