Image processing

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Cell motility is a complex phenomenon, which may be explored in a variety of experimental systems, ranging from in vitro cultured cells, whole embryos or adult animals. The study of cell motility takes advantage both of morphological analysis of fixed samples, and of functional studies of live cells, using experimental conditions as close as possible to physiological ones. Timelapse-microscopy, in combination with fast optical sectioning techniques, allows to observe and analyze the movement in three dimensions of whole live cells, but also of their subcellular components and of specific molecules at subsequent time steps.

By applying video time lapse techniques to the study of live fibroblasts, the role of specific molecules such as oncogenes and components of the extracellular matrix, has been evaluated both in basal conditions and within wound healing assays. This allowed to define the role of single oncogenes such as Ras and Src in affecting cell motility and their interactions with components of the extracellular matrix. A statistical analysis tool was developed to measure the speed, direction and tortuosity of moving cells.
The large number of experimental data and images deriving from multiple acquisitions at different times and sample levels stimulated the development of a relational databank, able to connect each acquisition to experimental data such as cell line, colture conditions and staining methods. A custom cell bank maintenance system was also developed to archive the history of each cell line, starting from its arrival to the laboratory and keeping track of the various thawing and propagation procedures.
Image visualization and processing tools may be used to highlight various, otherwise hidden, aspects of the image data. A web based application, IPROC, is being developed to rapidly visualize and process remotely stored images, within an environment similar to that of a typical desktop application. Compatible images range from simple two-dimensional frames, to complex multidimensional datasets, typical of microscopic observation of biological samples, such as time series, z-axis sections, channels recorded at different wavelength and optical arrangement with, optionally, different samples and positions. The program provides tools for scrolling, rotating on multiple axes and a selection mechanisms to allow a variable visualization of a multidimensional image. Processing is obtained by integrating a large library of different unix filters, installed on the server, while interactivity is provided by the ability to quickly react to user input via small data requests. IPROC will integrate restoration filters and cell motility tools within one global web system.

Bioinformatics: Research Activity: Eukaryotic CSTs - Bacterial RNAs - Image processing
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