For many years the limits of available technology have thwarted scientists’ attempts to look inside the brain and map out its complexities. Brain tissue is dense and tends to scatter light. Most microscopes can’t penetrate more than a few tenths of a millimetre below the surface, making it impossible to observe the intricate details within. But thanks to a mixture of chemicals called Scale, it is now possible to see further into the brain than ever before. Scale can render brain tissue as clear as glass: after two weeks of treatment a mouse brain is completely transparent with nerve cells intact (left) and a laser beam can pass straight through it (right). The breakthrough treatment has already allowed scientists to image neurons [nerve cells] up to a depth of 4mm. This not only further facilitates the contemporary study of mammalian brain development but pushes the boundaries of future neuroscientific investigation.
Written by Emma Stoye
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.