See-through brains



Researchers at Stanford University have found a way of turning the tissues of brain samples translucent – close to transparent, by embalming the brain in acrylamide, which hardens to a translucent gel when heated, and formaldehyde, which binds the acrylamide to the brain’s molecules. Applying an electric current takes away all matter which isn’t bound to the acrylamide gel, removing the fatty cell membranes which made the brain opaque but leaving the contents of the cells.

Combined with marker molecules, used to trace chemicals in the brain, the CLARITY technique allows researchers to see exactly what is going on. Current uses could be in the study of Alzheimers in the brain, but as the technique could theoretically work on any organ, the possibilities are wide open.


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