A popular method of studying neural pathways in brains of laboratory animals has been to image them with light-sheet based microscopy (LSM), an optical technique that uses tightly focused thin sheets of light emanating from a laser to illuminate only narrow crossections of a sample. LSM works well for small tissue samples, but when imaging something even as large as a mouse brain, the additional tissue scatters too much light to maintain a high quality image. Now a team of Italian researchers have overcome much of the image degradation due to scattering by introducing confocal microscopy into the mix and calling the new technique confocal light sheet microscopy (CLSM).
Confocal microscopy provides higher resolution imaging over traditional (wide-field) microscopy by using a tiny slit to limit the volume that is being looked at. Coupling it with LSM allows scientists to penetrate an whole mouse brain with a sheet of light while only looking at the slice being imaged.
From the study abstract:
The background rejection capabilities of CLSM were validated in cleared mouse brains by comparison with a structured illumination approach. We show that CLSM allows reconstructing macroscopic brain volumes with sub-cellular resolution. We obtained a comprehensive map of Purkinje cells in the cerebellum of L7-GFP transgenic mice. Further, we were able to trace neuronal projections across brain of thy1-GFP-M transgenic mice. The whole-brain high-resolution fluorescence imaging assured by CLSM may represent a powerful tool to navigate the brain through neuronal pathways. Although this work is focused on brain imaging, the macro-scale high-resolution tomographies affordable with CLSM are ideally suited to explore, at micron-scale resolution, the anatomy of different specimens like murine organs, embryos or flies.
Optical Society of America press release: Novel microscopy method offers sharper view of brain’s neural network
Study in Optics Express: Confocal light sheet microscopy: micron-scale neuroanatomy of the entire mouse brain…