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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Transparent mice

Atushi Miyawaki and his colleagues at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute have developed a new reagent that can make biological samples transparent.  The aqueous reagent, dubbed ‘Scale’, renders most tissues transparent without altering their shapes.  In addition, Scale does not interfere with fluorescent labeling.

Caption: Mouse embryos. Left: embryo placed in phosphate buffered saline (PBS) after fixation with 4 percent paraformaldehyde (PFA). Right: embryo incubated in ScaleA2 solution for 2 weeks after fixation with 4 percent PFA.
Credit: RIKEN
Miyawaki and his team are currently using Scale to study mouse brains and neurons.  However, they are not oblivious to the myriad other uses their new reagent has.  In fact, they are working on creating similar reagents that are mild enough to use on living tissue.  Maybe I’ve read too much science fiction, but I’m picturing a doctor painting a swab of reagent on a patient’s chest to look at his heart.  I’m pretty sure that’s not how it would work though, more's the pity.

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