Transparent Bodies: Mice Go See-Through For Science

Aug 4, 2014

By Tanya Lewis


A warm, furry mouse has been transformed into a pale, gooey-looking “see-through” version of its former self, by researchers wielding a new technique they say could be used to better understand processes in the body.

The technique — which can reveal all of an animal’s organs, from its brain to its kidneys, while keeping them intact — could lead to a better understanding of how the brain and body interact, as well as new ways to treat conditions such as chronic pain and autism, according to a study published today (July 31) in the journal Cell.

“Although the idea of tissue clearing has been around for a century, to our knowledge, this is the first study to perform whole-body clearing, as opposed to first extracting and then clearing organs outside the adult body,” study researcher Viviana Gradinaru, a neuroscientist at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, said in a statement.

The method could give scientists a clearer view of anything involving whole-organism research, Gradinaru said. For example, they will be able to look at how the peripheral nervous system and organs may influence cognition, or vice versa.

The researchers previously developed a method for renderingindividual organs transparent. That technique involved placing the tissue in a water-based gel to hold its structure, then using detergents to wash away the fatty molecules that light cannot pass though. But this method had been used only to make transparent brains and embryos.

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