To see what’s going on inside organs and tissues, researchers usually slice them up, photograph each sliver, and use the images to create a three-dimensional reconstruction. That’s all rather tedious and the results aren’t very accurate. It would be better to make organs transparent, but there’s a problem: the waxy molecules called lipids that block the passage of light through cells also provide structure. Remove lipids and tissues collapse. Unless you can find a structural substitute, that is. Working in dead mice, researchers replaced dissolved lipids with a transparent gel that provides support without blocking the view. And once organs are rendered see-through, it’s easy enough to map cells marked with dyes or fluorescent proteins. Pictured is a snapshot of stained intestinal glands from a mouse made transparent with the new technique. In future, it could be used to diagnose diseases, including the detection of cancer cells in biopsies.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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.