See-Through Brain Development
The world’s very first See-Through Brain has been developed by a team at Stanford University led by Karl Deisseroth (M.D., Ph.D.). Deisseroth is well-known for his critical role in the development of Optogenetics, a tool used to control individual neurons with light. Optogenetics is normally limited to surface neurons because the light has trouble reaching deeper areas, but the see-through brain may greatly enhance its efficacy.
The new method (termed CLARITY) involves removing the fat that provides structure but also blocks light. The brain is soaked in a chemical that forms a nanoporous hydrogel-hybridized mesh in the brain. This mesh can then support all the tissue so the fat can be washed away, resulting in the incredible see-through brain.
Unfortunately, the new technique can’t be used in living animals, but it still represents a huge advancement for neuroanatomists. No longer will there be much need to cut the brain into tiny slices (an extremely time-consuming process) to observe connectivity.
The announcement comes just a week after President Barack Obama announced a $100 million BRAIN initiative, and this new step forward surely offers a taste of the sort of technological breakthroughs the initiative hopes to achieve.
And all the Leaders in Neuroscience seem to be weighing in on this one:
“I can’t make any official statement, but I can say that this is exactly the type of technology one would hope to develop for the [BRAIN] project” – Dr. Michelle Freund, a program manager with the National Institutes of Mental Health
“If the entire mouse brain is transparent, that makes a very large fraction of neuroscience research much easier” – Dr. R. Clay Reid of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.
This technique “is a giant step forward from having to slice the mouse brain into 1,000 pieces and looking at them each individually, then trying to reconstruct the relationships of all those slices” – Dr. Cori Bargmann of Rockefeller University, a co-leader of Obama’s brain initiative.
“It’s exactly the technique everyone’s been waiting for”- Dr. Terry Sejnowski of the Salk Institute.
Karl Deisseroth, mastermind of the CLARITY technique
It is certainly an exciting time to be a Neuroscientist.
You can find the full article here.