Ultraliser: a framework for creating multiscale, high-fidelity and geometrically realistic 3D models for in silico neuroscience

Marwan Abdellah, Juan José García Cantero, Nadir Román Guerrero, Alessandro Foni, Jay S Coggan, Corrado Cali, Marco Agus, Eleftherios Zisis, Daniel Keller, Markus Hadwiger, Pierre J. Magistretti, Henry Markram, Felix Schürmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Ultraliser is a neuroscience-specific software framework capable of creating accurate and biologically realistic 3D models of complex neuroscientific structures at intracellular (e.g. mitochondria and endoplasmic reticula), cellular (e.g. neurons and glia) and even multicellular scales of resolution (e.g. cerebral vasculature and minicolumns). Resulting models are exported as triangulated surface meshes and annotated volumes for multiple applications in in silico neuroscience, allowing scalable supercomputer simulations that can unravel intricate cellular structure–function relationships. Ultraliser implements a high-performance and unconditionally robust voxelization engine adapted to create optimized watertight surface meshes and annotated voxel grids from arbitrary non-watertight triangular soups, digitized morphological skeletons or binary volumetric masks. The framework represents a major leap forward in simulation-based neuroscience, making it possible to employ high-resolution 3D structural models for quantification of surface areas and volumes, which are of the utmost importance for cellular and system simulations. The power of Ultraliser is demonstrated with several use cases in which hundreds of models are created for potential application in diverse types of simulations. Ultraliser is publicly released under the GNU GPL3 license on GitHub (BlueBrain/Ultraliser). Significance: There is crystal clear evidence on the impact of cell shape on its signaling mechanisms. Structural models can therefore be insightful to realize the function; the more realistic the structure can be, the further we get insights into the function. Creating realistic structural models from existing ones is challenging, particularly when needed for detailed subcellular simulations. We present Ultraliser, a neuroscience-dedicated framework capable of building these structural models with realistic and detailed cellular geometries that can be used for simulations.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBriefings in bioinformatics
StatePublished - Nov 26 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-11-28
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): OSR-2017-CRG6-3438
Acknowledgements: The Blue Brain Project, a research center of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), from the Swiss government’s ETH Board of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology. This publication is based upon work supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) under Award No. OSR-2017-CRG6-3438. We thank Grigori Chevtchenko and Samuel Lapere for the impactful discussions on watertight meshing, Pawel Podhajski on technical assistance to deploy the software on Blue Brain 5. We also thank Karin Holm and Judit Planas for their valuable comments on the manuscript. We acknowledge the artistic touch of Elvis Boci to improve the quality of figures.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Information Systems


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