New Chemical Reagent ‘Scale’ Turns Mouse Brains Transparent

Researchers have developed a ground-breaking new aqueous reagent which literally turns biological tissue transparent, producing 3D images at unprecedented depth and detail.

AsianScientist (Sept. 1, 2011) – Researchers at RIKEN have developed a ground-breaking new aqueous reagent which literally turns biological tissue transparent, in a technical report published this week in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Currently, scientists are limited in their ability to probe deeper than one mm into thick biological tissue by the scattering property of light.

The new reagent, referred to as Scale and developed by Atsushi Miyawaki and his team at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute (BSI), gets around these problems in two ways.

The first is to render biological tissue transparent. Scale does this significantly better than other clearing reagents and without altering the overall shape or proportions of the sample. The second is to avoid decreasing the intensity of signals emitted by genetically-encoded fluorescent proteins in the tissue, which are used as markers to label specific cell types.

Already, Miyawaki and his team have used Scale to study neurons in the mouse brain at an unprecedented depth and level of resolution, shedding light onto the intricate networks of the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and white matter.

Initial experiments exploit Scale’s unique properties to visualize the axons connecting left and right hemispheres and blood vessels in the postnatal hippocampus in greater detail than ever before.

“Our current experiments are focused on the mouse brain, but applications are neither limited to mice, nor to the brain,” Miyawaki explains. “We envision using Scale on other organs such as the heart, muscles and kidneys, and on tissues from primate and human biopsy samples.”

Miyawaki’s team is now investigating another milder candidate reagent which would allow them to study live tissue in the same way, albeit with lower levels of transparency – opening the door to experiments that were simply impossible before.

The article can be found at: Hama H et al. (2011) Scale: a chemical approach for fluorescence imaging and reconstruction of transparent mouse brain.

Source: RIKEN.
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