Scientists Use Neurolucida to Create 3D Reconstructions of Placental Villous Trees

(a,b) Comparison of the microscopic aspects of a thin (4–6 μm) histological section of a human placenta after staining with hematoxylin/eosin (a) with the microscopic aspects of a whole-mount isolated villous tree after staining with hematoxylin (b). The scale bars in a and b are 250 μm. (a) Various cross- and longitudinal sections of villi can be recognized. The stromal architecture inside the sectioned villi is visible. The cross-sections of branches belong to an unknown number of villous trees. (b) A single villous tree is visible, and branches are not sectioned. The hierarchical positions of nodes (branching points) and the branching topology can be recognized.

(a,b) Comparison of the microscopic aspects of a thin (4–6 μm) histological section of a human placenta after staining with hematoxylin/eosin.

When neuroscientists started studying neurons in 3D, it revolutionized brain science. Now, for the first time, scientists are using this same technology to study the human placenta, and they’ve made some fascinating new discoveries about its structure.

Using Neurolucida to create 3D reconstructions of villous trees – three-dimensional structures in the placenta that facilitate gas and nutrient exchange between the fetus and mother – researchers in Munich, Germany uncovered a wealth of information about their architecture.

For the first time, they analyzed the complexity of villous tree branches and branching, determined the number and location of nodes (branching points), and measured branch angles, discovering a surprising correlation between the branching angle of terminal branchesand the fetoplacental weight ratio (BW/PW) – a calculation commonly used to measure fetal health in prenatal medicine.

“The results show that 3D analysis with Neurolucida reaches beyond the horizons of 2D histology, the current gold standard in placenta morphology/pathology,” said Dr. Hans-Georg Frank, an author of the study. Continue reading “Scientists Use Neurolucida to Create 3D Reconstructions of Placental Villous Trees” »

In the Forest of the Mind

Using Neurolucida, microscopy, and mice genetically engineered to express a random amount of red, yellow, and blue fluorescent proteins, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology researcher Hermina Nedelescu has created a fascinating and hypnotic movie of neurons. Nedelescu and colleagues at the Institute’s Computational Neuroscience Unit used Neurolucida and its Virtual Tissue 3D Extension Module and Montaging tools to acquire and stitch together multiple images of Purkinje cells—large neurons  that form elongated branching structures called “dendritic trees”—into a recording showing each tree from different angles and visual locations. As you move around and through the video, the traced cells, highlighted by the “Brainbow” coloring, show the complexity of the structures and location and how the Purkinje cells relate to each other.

Visit the  OIST Computational Neuroscience Unit page for more information on their work.

Movie by Hermina Nedelescu of the OIST Computational Neuroscience Unit (Erik De Schutter, Principal Investigator), in collaboration with Alanna Watt of McGill University, Canada, and Hermann Cuntz of Goethe University, Germany.

This article was edited to add mention of the Montaging tool.

Watch April’s AutoNeuron Webinar On Our Website

A great way to get better acquainted with MBF Bioscience’s software is to take one of our webinars. Hosted by Dr. Susan Hendricks, the online presentations demonstrate in real time how you can get the most out of our products.

Our latest webinar “Automated Neuron Reconstruction with AutoNeuron” is now available at So if you missed last month’s webinar, or if you’d like a refresher, you can access the recording any time you’d like, and view the entire hour-long presentation at your convenience.

Listen as Dr. Hendricks explains how to use the AutoNeuron extension module for Neurolucida to automatically reconstruct a labeled neuron. A series of slides provides the visuals as she uses the workflow to create a 3D model of the cell. Automatic soma detection, automatic and interactive branch reconstruction, and 3D display of the image data and the trace model are all discussed.

To find out about upcoming webinars, fan us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

University of Maryland Scientists Reconstruct Neuronal Processes in 3D with Neurolucida

University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers have used Neurolucida since it was in its embryonic stages in the 1960s. Now, nearly a half-century later, the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology continues using Neurolucida in their research, as outlined in a recent study concerning the organization of the olfactory system.

Dr. Michael Shipley and his team collaborated with scientists from Hungary and Japan on the paper “Molecular Identity of Periglomerular and Short Axon Cells,” published in the January 20 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The study involved the examination of the olfactory systems—including the olfactory sensory axons and juxtaglomerular neurons— of TH transgenic mice expressing green fluorescent protein.

“Neurolucida was essential for the tracing and derivation of basic morphometric parameters (length, etc.),” said co-author Dr. Adam C. Puche. The research team used Neurolucida to create 3D reconstructions of interglomerular connections, a process which aided in the determination that “different JG cell chemotypes contribute to distinct microcircuits within or between glomeruli.”

Access the article abstract and full text (by subscription) at

{Image courtesy of Adam C. Puche, Ph.D., University of Maryland, School of Medicine}

Emi Kiyokage, Yu-Zhen Pan, Zuoyi Shao, Kazuto Kobayashi, Gabor Szabo, Yuchio Yanagawa, Kunihiko Obata, Hideyuki Okano, Kazunori Toida, Adam C. Puche, and Michael T. Shipley (2010), “Molecular Identity of Periglomerular and Short Axon Cells” The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(3):1185-1196

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