Brain cells illuminated in a rainbow of even brighter colours allows more detail to be discerned
In 2007 scientists and artists alike were first entranced by ‘Brainbow’ – a tool that illuminates the brain in a whirl of colour, with each cell, or neuron, glowing a unique hue. Researchers began untangling the brain’s complex web of connections, but soon found Brainbow’s limits. Neurons have long, thin projections called axons, and the fluorescent colours aren’t bright enough to clearly show their full spindly length, so tracking their paths can take months. Now a new technique takes the concept one step further, imbuing neurons with even brighter colours, making even the finest strands more visible and dramatically reducing the time it takes to track them. Named ‘Tetbow’ after the antibiotic tetracycline, which it uses to control gene expression, this illuminating approach reveals the most intricate details of 3D structure such as the fine tufts visible in the olfactory bulb [part of the brain involved in smell] section pictured.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.