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New Imaging Technology Can 'See' You Thinking

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Kwanghun Chung wants to make it easy for scientists to take a molecular snapshot of the brain. The very best imaging technology available today allows inspection of just 10 or so biomolecules in 3-D. “It’s not enough,” says Chung, who hopes to render a complete picture of all of the hundreds of thousands of biomolecules at work inside the thousands of distinct cell types across a whole human brain.
A new assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, Chung started on a project to preserve subsets of neurons in brain samples and to isolate them in place for visualization while a postdoc at Stanford University. His proposal to preserve all the cells and, at the same time, make them transparent and permeable led to the development of CLARITY. This method shores up postmortem brain tissue using a chemical mesh and then dissolves all of the fat, which is what previously made it so hard to see into the brain. What remains is a transparent — yet perfectly intact — brain. Read more...

Three-dimensional view of stained hippocampus showing fluorescent-expressing neurons (green), connecting interneurons (red) and supporting glia (blue).
Photo courtesy of the researcher