Pretty pictures

A new technique allows us to take a 3D journey through the mouse brain.

This is the kind of stuff that gets me very excited about science. A new techniques has been developed by researchers in the USA, which allows the brain to becomesee-through‘ leading to numerous opportunities for neuroscience research.


I spent many hours in the lab processing tissue (ie. taking a brain and treating it with chemicals to keep its structure so you can look at it under a microscope). This can be a long and laborious task. The result is hundreds of slides with a small slice of brain on each slide. Therefore to understand the whole brain, many hours are spent on a microscope reconstructing a 3D image.

However, this method has been revolutionised with a new technique called CLARITY, which uses chemicals to make the fatty part of the tissue transparent. Many attempts have been made to develop this technique, but it has been difficult to remove the fatty lipids without affecting the proteins we want to study. This was solved by using the chemical acrylamide, which when heated creates a mesh like structure to protect the important components of the brain.

The resulting images are spectacular. Combining the CLARITY technique with fluorescence technology results in colourful pretty pictures which can help work out how the brain is built and communication occurs between different brain areas. And it is one huge step towards ‘BIG NEUROSCIENCE‘ – the dawning of a new era in neuroscience.

If you don’t believe me, watch this video on a journey to the centre of a mouse’s brain.


Full Nature article