Scientists Make Brains Transparent to Get a Better Look Inside

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Scientists at at Stanford University have developed a method for making tissue almost completely transparent (see below). A series of chemical treatments replaces the fatty lipid membranes surrounding cells with an acrylamide mesh that keeps microscopic details intact without scattering light like lipid does. Neurotransmitters and other important molecules remain in place and can be visualized with a rainbow palate of fluorescent dyes.


Until now, neuroscientists typically had to cut a brain into ultra-thin slices to visualize such features. But that chops up one of the things they’re most interested in studying: the cable-like axons that carry signals from one part of the brain to another. The new method makes it possible to visualize these long-range connections as well as the fine-scale anatomy and molecular make up of neurons, the scientists report today in Nature.

Although they developed the method in mouse brains, the team shows that it works on human post-mortem brain tissue too. In the Nature paper, they describe abnormal neural connections in an autistic boy whose brain had been stored in formalin for more than 6 years.

Written By: Greg Miller
continue to source article at wired.com

3 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent, another tool allowing us to unravel one of Nature’s greatest mysteries.

    I have my fingers crossed that a major breakthrough will come in neurology in my lifetime. I find the brain a subject as interesting as cosmologists’ dark matter and mathematicians’ pondering on infinities.

    Peace.

  2. Excellent new investigative techniques are being developed by scientists all the time.

    The new method makes it possible to visualize these long-range connections as well as the fine-scale anatomy and molecular make up of neurons, the scientists report today in Nature.

    This should give us vastly more details of the circuitry.

  3. Indeed. And I believe that better knowledge of the brain’s connective interactions will bring a better understanding of, amongst other things, the causes of mental illness. Neuroscience is a very exciting and promising field of study and this new tool will surely prove invaluable in time.

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