Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Seeing the whole brain's vessel network in 3D

20 March 2020

Thick and Thin

A network of blood vessels feeds our brains with oxygen and nutrients – yet its thin capillaries are easily missed in scans looking for the causes of disease. Here we see the detailed micro vessel patterns in a rat’s brain thanks to a new technique. The brain is soaked in a fluorescent dye which coats the inside of the vessels, then bathed in a special hydrogel – a jelly-like mixture that turns hard like resin when the temperature is raised, fixing the stain in the vessels in place. After another chemical wash to make the brain transparent, we are left with a 3D map of the brain’s vascular network, ready for flying through with a microscope, or further analysis. Here, a newly discovered connection between cerebral and hippocampal vessels is highlighted in pink, contributing to knowledge that might one day help treat cerebrovascular disease.

Written by John Ankers

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