Real X-ray vision: See-through brains ready for study

Sep 21, 2015

RIKEN

By RIKEN

Researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan have developed a new technique for creating transparent tissue that can be used to illuminate 3D brain anatomy at very high resolutions. Published in Nature Neuroscience, the work showcases the new technology and its practical importance in clinical science by showing how it has given new insights into Alzheimer’s disease plaques.

“The usefulness of optical clearing techniques can be measured by their ability to gather accurate 3D structural information that cannot be readily achieved through traditional 2D methods,” explains lead scientist Atsushi Miyawaki. “Here, we achieved this goal using a new procedure, and collected data that may resolve several current issues regarding the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. While Superman’s x-ray vision is only the stuff of comics, our method, called ScaleS, is a real and practical way to see through brain and body tissue.”

In recent years, generating see-through tissue–a process called optical clearing–has become a goal for many researchers in life sciences because of its potential to reveal complex structural details of our bodies, organs, and cells–both healthy and diseased–when combined with advanced microscopy imaging techniques. Previous methods were limited because the transparency process itself can damage the structures under study.


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