Scientists collaborating on both coasts of the United States have developed a new technique for imaging the brain that provides an incredible new look at the detailed functionality of the organ. The technique combines expansion microscopy and lattice light-sheet microscopy, two techniques that on their own can provide impressive imaging of living tissues.
The new approach results in nano-scale resolution of neurons, the connections between them, and the organelles within living brain cells. All this is possible over large areas of the brain, such as the cortical column of mice, or even the entire brain of Drosophila flies. “A lot of problems in biology are multiscale,” said Edward Boyden, one of the senior scientists involved in this study. “Using lattice light-sheet microscopy, along with the expansion microscopy process, we can now image at large scale without losing sight of the nanoscale configuration of biomolecules.”
The new technique is quite fast, allowing for tracing of neural circuits, tracking of neural development, and even for behavioral studies that identify the neural activity triggered by certain actions of living animals. Moreover, it does not seem to do much damage to the tissues studied, leading to the possibility of longer studies of the brain while not causing it harm.