A revolutionary technology which turns mice transparent could one day be used to map the human brain. The new method is called ultimate DISCO – or uDISCO in short. This method is a premiere scientific technique which offers an unprecedented level of detail. It enables you to see the individual working cells in a body.
Coauthor of the study, Ali Erturk says that now it’s possible to have a look at the entire mouse in high resolution. Erturk is a neuroscientist at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.
The technique will allow scientists to fully understand how the nervous system works. This could provide insight in how injuries and illnesses damage the system, and how to reverse that process.
In general, researchers can see the whole organ in low resolution, by using techniques like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), or by cutting thin pieces of tissue and put it under the microscope for a detailed look.
However, the above-mentioned techniques are time-consuming and do not show the entire complexity of the nervous system. It also cannot closely study tumor cells or inflammatory cells, because they are very small and well hidden inside the tissue.
Now, experts can get the full picture, without “cutting the wires.” With the uDISCO method, the nervous system has fewer secrets than ever before. It is similar to looking at pipes in a wall and seeing them work by making a glass wall and filling the pipes with colored water.
To make a dead mouse transparent, using uDISCO, the animal is put in a substance that removes water and lipids from the tissue. This leaves a glass-like scaffold behind. It also makes the body of the mouse smaller by up to 65 percent. The method allows for easier tissue fitting under the microscope and makes the tissue more flexible.
Sometimes, rodents are genetically engineered to have fluorescent proteins. This gives scientists a high-resolution view at areas illuminated by the researcher.
This surprising method could one day be used to map a living human brain. uDISCO could then help scientists understand how psychiatric conditions affect the rest of the body and possibly how to reverse these conditions.
In the end, the uDISCO technique could lead to fewer mice being sacrificed in the interest of science.
Image Source – Wikipedia