Neuroscientists in Germany have developed a way to turn an entire mouse, including its muscles and internal organs, transparent while illuminating the nerve paths that run throughout its body. The process, called uDisco, provides an alternate way for researchers to study an organism’s nervous system without having to slice into sections of its organs or tissues. It allows researchers to use a microscope to trace neurons from the rodent’s brain and spinal cord all the way to its fingers and toes.
The neuroscientists developed a process that renders a rodent transparent while keeping its internal organs structurally sound. The mice they used were dead.
First, they dumped the mouse in a glass of alcohol, then in an organic solvent, then pickled the mouse’s blood for four days, the mouse became transparent.
So far, the technique has been conducted only in mice and rats, but the scientists think it could one day be used to map the human brain. They said it could be particularly useful for studying the effects of mental disorders like Alzheimer’s disease or schizophrenia.
Researchers often study these diseases by examining thin slices of brain tissue under a microscope. That is not a good way to study neurons because if you slice the brain, you slice the network. The best way to study the brain is to look at the entire brain that is intact, not cut up.
Another effect of the uDisco formula is that it also shrinks the mouse to about half or a third of its size. That makes it small and flexible enough to fit under a microscope.
There is hope for people struggling with dementia.