Mouse brain rendered transparent for neurological research

Posted Apr 14, 2013 by Tim Sandle
Researchers have developed a method for rendering the brain of a mouse transparent. This non-destructive process is designed to allow scientists to better visualize brain conditions such as autism.
A project called CLARITY, that has created a transparent mouse brain, could lead to a new era of whole-organ imaging, according to The Guardian. The project allows areas of the brain to be seen in an intact form in a way that they have not been seen previously (because to do requires the brain to be dissected).
The transparent brain reveals the three-dimensional complexity of the organ, including all of the fine wiring, and leaving the molecular structures completely intact.
The CLARITY process, drawing on biochemical engineering, involves the extraction the opaque elements from the grey matter of the brain, mainly fats, which then leaves the important features fully intact. To keep the structure intact, the fats are then replaced with a transparent hydrogel which solidifies when subject to moderate heat.
The process is shown in the video below:
The main aim of the research is to allow scientists to study various brain diseases to see how they develop. Although the main study has been with mice, the researchers have examined preserved human brain samples and obtained similar results. According to Wired, the same science team have described abnormal neural connections in an autistic boy whose brain had been stored in formalin for more than 6 years.
The research was led by Karl Deisseroth and Kwanghun Chung, with the study carried out at Stanford University. The findings have been published in Nature in a paper titled 'Structural and molecular interrogation of intact biological systems'.