Three-dimensional imaging of the developing human fetal urogenital-genital tract: Indifferent stage to male and female differentiation

Differentiation. 2018 Sep-Oct:103:14-23. doi: 10.1016/j.diff.2018.09.003. Epub 2018 Sep 13.


Recent studies in our lab have utilized three imaging techniques to visualize the developing human fetal urogenital tract in three dimensions: optical projection tomography, scanning electron microscopy and lightsheet fluorescence microscopy. We have applied these technologies to examine changes in morphology and differential gene expression in developing human external genital specimens from the ambisexual stage (<9 weeks fetal age) to well-differentiated male and female organs (>13 weeks fetal age). This work outlines the history and function of each of these three imaging modalities, our methods to prepare specimens for each and the novel findings we have produced thus far. We believe the images in this paper of human fetal urogenital organs produced using lightsheet fluorescence microscopy are the first published to date.

Keywords: Human fetal urogenita tract; Lightsheet microscopy; Optical projection tomography; Scanning electron microscopy; Three-dimensional imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Development / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Sex Differentiation / genetics*
  • Urogenital System / growth & development
  • Urogenital System / ultrastructure*