An article in the July 31 edition of the journal Cell describes a new imaging technique developed in rodents called “whole-body clearing” that enables researchers to trace neural networks within the brain outward to those that extend to organs throughout the body, and avoid the painstaking procedure of imaging thin slices of tissue one at a time.
The technique renders the rodent body see-through and permeable, by stripping away the lipids and membranes that normally limit the depths to which light from microscopes can probe. Understanding the diverse neural networks that control vital organs will provide a better foundation for learning how best to treat a variety of disease conditions. For that to happen, researchers need the ability to image vast stretches of networks that run from the brain to organs and back, a task too daunting for researchers to perform slice by slice. Read a news story about the advances here.