Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Deep See Fish

New tissue clearing system enables whole nervous systems to be revealed

08 July 2020

Deep See Fish

When putting life under a microscope, a clock is ticking. Fragile cells and their molecules inside often only last for hours or minutes – scientists much balance techniques to make their samples more visible with the need for a quick peek. A new technique called DEpigmEntation-Plus-Clearing (DEEP-clear) uses chemicals to sluice away opaque chemicals like fats, leaving tissues transparent and glassy. Tissue clearing is nothing new in histology, but DEEP-clear also washes away distracting pigments from coloured tissues at the same time, quickly producing samples that can then be purposefully stained with specific dyes. Here, light sheet microscopy uses horizontal 'sheets' of gentle laser light to pick out fishy details, later virtually reassembled in 3D. In these zebrafish heads dyes highlight dividing cells in pink and cells in the nervous system in green. Researchers hope DEEP-clear can now help to highlight similar cells in human tissues too.

Written by John Ankers

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