Scientists Create Transparent Mice with See-Through Organs
Scientists at the California Institute of Technology have re-created the body horror of the television show Fringe, but with mice.
Yang et al published their research in the journal Cell, which stated that they had successfully created whole transparent mice whose entire bodies are see-through, with the exception of their bones. Previous studies had used similar methods in order to make the brain cells of mice transparent, but this study marked the first time the treatment had been applied to the entire body. The result looks unsettlingly like a blob of rodent-shaped gelatin.
In order to create these transparent mice, the researchers euthanize the mice and remove their skin before beginning the process. They then pump their blood vessels full of chemicals that dismantle the fats in the vessels that cause the organs to block light. The entire process takes approximately a week. This method allows the researchers to observe the anatomy of mice in much more detail than other technologies, such as X-rays or MRIs.
"Our methodology has the potential to accelerate any scientific endeavor that would benefit from whole-organism mapping, including the study of how peripheral nerves and organs can profoundly affect cognition and mental processing, and vice versa. Our easy-to-use tissue clearing protocols, which employ readily available and cost-effective reagents and equipment, will make the subcellular interrogation of large tissue samples an accessible undertaking within the broader research and clinical communities," said Viviana Gradinaru, the senior author of the study.
The ability to study the anatomy of mice is particularly significant for biomedical research, as mice's biology is similar to that of humans and their bodies are often used to simulate human diseases in the search for cures and treatments. "It should be useful for projects like mapping the details of the nervous system or the spread of cancer within lab animals," said Gradinaru. "It might also help doctors analyze biopsy samples from people someday." The researchers may also be able to perform advanced DNA research, such as the locations of active genes.