Transparent Brain

Neurobiologists can turn organs invisible

Neurobiologists of Stanford University made nervous fabric of a rodent absolutely transparent, and by a usual light microscope in this transparent brain it is possible to consider the separate neurons, which are shining in the dark with yellow, red and blue fluorescent light. The brain has grayish-white color. This color results from multiple reflection of light on borders of cell membranes. To make nervous fabric invisible, reflection needs to be minimized. At first scientists tried to reach it by solutions of organic substances with specially picked up coefficient of refraction, such that on border of a cell membrane of reflection didn’t occur. Use of such solutions allowed to make nervous cuts transparent, but the method has essential shortcomings. Alternative way of an enlightenment of a brain there can be a full removal at cages of membranes. Scientists from Stanford went this way, and during work they managed to keep almost untouched structure of nervous fabric and the vast majority of cell proteins. The secret of scientists consists in use special matrix, which, on the one hand, supports all structures on the places, and with another, it doesn’t interfere with diffusion of such enough large molecules, as fluorescent antibodies. Transparent organsScientists tested new technology not only on a brain of mice, but also on the cuts of a human brain, which are traditionally storing in formalin. To make transparent a brain of the person is impossible, because it is too big. It is necessary to work with separate cuts, however thickness of these cuts is measured already by millimeters, instead of micrometers.

Even if the human brain could be made invisible, it would be almost senseless, as it would be impossible to work at it with a microscope, which depth of penetration doesn’t exceed centimeter.

Restrictions of a new method are obvious, it allows to study only a dead brain. There can’t be any word about any activity of neurons in a preparation recorded by formalin and acrylamide. Recently, neurobiologists learned to catch those neurons on synthesis of special RNA, which worked directly before an animal turned into a preparation.


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