Tuesday, May 15, 2018


What do you see in the images below? They’re both black and white images that have a three-dimensional effect but they were taken by different means - one by 3D ultrasound and the other by z-stack microscopy.

With regards to the the image on the left, the left half is a bit obstructed but you should be able to pick out two eyes, a nose and lips. This is a 3D ultrasound of my baby’s face at 33 weeks of gestational age. I can already see which features come from mom and which ones come from dad. Knowing nothing about 3D ultrasound technology, I imagined it to be similar to acquiring a z-projected image using BioTek’s Lionheart Automated Microscope (an example is the image on the right, of zebrafish embryos taken at 4x with brightfield and GFP fluorescence.) Simply put, lots of images taken across multiple planes which is reconstructed to give you a representative image. Let’s see if I’m correct!

3D Ultrasound


Sample Image
3D Ultrasound
GE Volusion
BioTek Lionheart
Display, transducer probe, piezoelectric crystals
Display, CMOS camera, objective, LED light source, filters
High frequency sound waves
Fluorescent light
Ultrasound gel
Air, oil or water
  1. The transducer probe, which houses piezoelectric crystals, sends millions of sound waves per second across multiple planes
  2. Sound waves travel through the gel and into the body, hitting various boundaries of differing mechanical properties and distances
  3. Reflected sound waves are picked up by the piezoelectric crystals in the probe
  4. Dense tissues show as very bright white dots, soft tissue show as gray dots, while fluids do not reflect and show up black on the display
  1. LED light passes through an excitation filter then the objective to the sample.
  2. If the sample fluoresces, the emitted light passes through the objective and emission filter to the CMOS camera
  3. The same region of interest is imaged at up to 50 different planes to create a z-stack
  4. In each slice, the greater the fluorescence emission, the whiter the pixel appears on the display
2D multi-planar data (e.g. distance from the probe and mechanical properties) are  used for surface rendering, multiplanar reformatting or volume rendering to produce a 3D image shown on the display
Each pixel position across each slice of the z-stack are processed via an averaging, standard deviation or focus stacking algorithm (to name a few) to produce a single z-projected image shown on the display

So it’s similar…but different. And, just like an ultrasound picture, a microscope image has a technical component and can even invoke emotion and spark the imagination.

If you’ve ever taken an image using BioTek’s Cytation or Lionheart imager that has taken a life of its own, why not submit it to our imaging competition and win some cash? Show off your image like a proud parent!

By: BioTek Instruments, Ellaine Abueg Ph.D., Product Manager, Development

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