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Could Our Body Parts Someday Be See Through?


"...open the door to experiments that have simply never been possible before."

The answer to that immediate question is probably not. But scientists at Japan's main research institute have made it easier to see inside biological tissue that's dead. Not through X-ray, cross sections or any special microscopy but by making it transparent.

According to a release from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute (via Popular Science), the scientists developed a reagent -- the fancy scientific term meaning a solution that causes a chemical reaction -- called Scale, which is  the first to change once opaque tissue to clear. This technique allows scientists to avoid creating cross sections and losing detail of the sample due to light from current optical techniques. Atsushi Miyawaki and his team have already studied neurons in a mouse brain at a depth and resolution that was impossible before using Scale:

This combination, [for example,] makes possible a revolution in optical imaging, enabling researchers to visualize fluorescently-labeled brain samples at a depth of several millimeters and reconstruct neural networks at sub-cellular resolution.

. . .

"Our current experiments are focused on the mouse brain, but applications are neither limited to mice, nor to the brain," Miyawaki explains. "We envision using Scale on other organs such as the heart, muscles and kidneys, and on tissues from primate and human biopsy samples."

Unlike other reagents that are able to turn tissue clear because it didn't alter the shape of the tissue in anyway and it didn't alter the genetically-coded fluorescent proteins that researched used to label specific types of cells.

As of right now, Scale can only be used on dead tissue samples. The researchers are looking into a similar but milder reagent  that would allow them to look at live samples, although the level of transparency would be lower than with Scale. "This would open the door to experiments that have simply never been possible before," Miyawaki said.

[H/T Popular Science]

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