Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Clear Thinking
26 April 2012

Clear Thinking

For many years the limits of available technology have thwarted scientists’ attempts to look inside the brain and map out its complexities. Brain tissue is dense and tends to scatter light. Most microscopes can’t penetrate more than a few tenths of a millimetre below the surface, making it impossible to observe the intricate details within. But thanks to a mixture of chemicals called Scale, it is now possible to see further into the brain than ever before. Scale can render brain tissue as clear as glass: after two weeks of treatment a mouse brain is completely transparent with nerve cells intact (left) and a laser beam can pass straight through it (right). The breakthrough treatment has already allowed scientists to image neurons [nerve cells] up to a depth of 4mm. This not only further facilitates the contemporary study of mammalian brain development but pushes the boundaries of future neuroscientific investigation.

Written by Emma Stoye

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