Clearing away fruit fly tissue to visualise neuronal networks at the single-cell level
Fruit flies share around 60% of their genes with humans, so it’s not surprising that some aspects of our development are similar, too. Peaking inside a fly’s brain can reveal clues about own early nervous system, but there are challenges. This fly’s huge compound eyes normally contain coloured pigments which interfere with laser light used by powerful microscopes. But a new technique called ‘FlyClear’ sluices away the pigmentation, clearing the blocking chemicals but leaving the fly’s brain intact and transparent. Using gentle ultramicroscopy, tiny networks of neurons stretching behind the eyes to the brain are picked out, artificially coloured here in green. Applying these techniques to flies of different ages might reveal clues about how neurodegenerative diseases disrupt these networks – a vital step towards treatments.
Written by John Ankers
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