Scientists at the California Institute of Technology have developed a way to make the bodies of dead mice completely transparent. The research, published in the journal Cell, represents the accomplishment of a goal that the research community has been working towards for decades. The transparent animals enable the accurate visualisation of the complex interplay between different cells, tissues and organs within the context of a whole animal, thus could be used in diverse research applications.
Similar imaging methods developed in the past have been limited by the lengthy periods of time required to implement them and by problems with tissue damage. The authors therefore set out to identify a method which would optimise current techniques for creating transparent tissues and organs. The study, led by Dr Viviana Gradinaru, aimed to quickly and efficiently clear the tissues of a whole animal whilst preserving their structure and ensuring that the resultant tissue could be labelled and visualised effectively. A solution, delivered via the blood vessels, clears existing tissues and deposits a gel which holds the tissue structures in place. This new technique, named PARS (perfusion-assisted agent release in situ), can turn an entire animal transparent in just one to two weeks.
PARS is set to transform the study of disease. The potential applications are clearly wide-ranging, extending from aiding the study of development and neurobiology to assisting cancer research and disease monitoring. For example, the imaging methods could be used to search for metastatic cells in biopsies and thus could be utilised in cancer diagnostics. The development of PARS merges the study of entire organ systems with subcellular research in a way that hasn’t been done before, and this new technique will surely have a significant impact on the way in which we study and diagnose human disease.
Single-Cell Phenotyping within Transparent Intact Tissue through Whole-Body Clearing
Yang et al. 2014, Cell:158:1-14
www.caltech.edu/content/biology-made-simpler-clear-tissues [Accessed 02/08/14]
www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/31/see-through-mice_n_5638882.html [Accessed 02/08/14]