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Embryonic development in normal and genetically modified mice is commonly analysed by histological sectioning. This procedure is time-consuming, prone to artefact, and results in the loss of three-dimensional (3D) information. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of embryos has the potential of noninvasively acquiring a complete 3D data set. Published methods have used spin-echo techniques with inherently high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR); however, they required either perfusion of the embryo with a contrast agent, or prolonged acquisition times to improve contrast and resolution. Here, we show that a standard preparation (i.e. paraformaldehyde fixation) of 15.5 days post-coitum embryos followed by MRI using a fast gradient-echo sequence with T(1)-weighting achieves high resolution and high throughput for investigating mouse embryonic anatomy. 3D data sets were acquired in overnight experiments (<9 h) with an experimental resolution of approximately 25 microm(3). This spatial resolution is twofold higher than the values reported previously for comparable paraformaldehyde-fixed embryos, and it was obtained in less than a quarter of the time with sufficient SNR. Our approach combines speed, high resolution and contrast with a simple preparation technique and minimal operator time (<1 h). It allows rapid routine 3D characterisation of normal and abnormal mouse embryonic anatomy.

Original publication




Journal article


Magma (New York, N.Y.)

Publication Date





43 - 51


Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford, Headley Way, Oxford, OX3 9DU UK.


Fetus, Animals, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Imaging, Three-Dimensional, Echo-Planar Imaging, Image Enhancement, Sensitivity and Specificity, Anatomy, Cross-Sectional