‘Invisible’ mice reveal anatomical secrets

By Sara Reardon

A new technique that makes dead mice transparent and hard like plastic is giving researchers an unprecedented view of how different types of cell interact in the body. The approach lets scientists pinpoint specific tissues within an animal while scanning its entire body.

The technique, called vDISCO, has already revealed surprising structural connections between organs, including hints about the extent to which brain injuries affect the immune system and nerves in other parts of the body. That could lead to better treatments for traumatic brain injury or stroke.

Methods that turn entire organs clear have become popular in the past few years, because they allow scientists to study delicate internal structures without disturbing them. But removing organs from an animal’s body for analysis can make it harder to see the full effect of an injury or disease. And if scientists use older methods to make an entire mouse transparent, it can be difficult to ensure that the fluorescent markers used to label cells reach the deepest parts of an organ.

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