• UV mapping system;
  • 3D model;
  • b-spline model


Video games typically generate virtual 3D objects by texture mapping an image onto a 3D polygonal frame. The feeling of movement is then achieved by mathematically simulating camera movement relative to the polygonal frame. We have built customized scripts that adapt video game authoring software to texture mapping images of gene expression data onto b-spline based embryo models. This approach, known as UV mapping, associates two-dimensional (U and V) coordinates within images to the three dimensions (X, Y, and Z) of a b-spline model. B-spline model frameworks were built either from confocal data or de novo extracted from 2D images, once again using video game authoring approaches. This system was then used to build 3D models of 182 genes expressed in developing Xenopus embryos and to implement these in a web-accessible database. Models can be viewed via simple Internet browsers and utilize openGL hardware acceleration via a Shockwave plugin. Not only does this database display static data in a dynamic and scalable manner, the UV mapping system also serves as a method to align different images to a common framework, an approach that may make high-throughput automated comparisons of gene expression patterns possible. Finally, video game systems also have elegant methods for handling movement, allowing biomechanical algorithms to drive the animation of models. With further development, these biomechanical techniques offer practical methods for generating virtual embryos that recapitulate morphogenesis. Developmental Dynamics 236:1036–1043, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.