Expansion Microscopy brings the brain in 3-D into focus

Illuminating the brain and nervous system is one of today’s greatest engineering challenges. A new technique called expansion microscopy uses chemicals commonly found in baby diapers to swell mouse brain tissue samples with water to nearly five times the usual size, with little distortion. Tiny details once blurry now appear sharply in focus with a conventional microscope. This advance gives scientists a new way to see small parts of the brain, like the intersections between neurons. The NSF-funded findings, from Ed Boyden, Fei Chen and Paul Tillberg at the Massachusettes Institute of Technology, are in the Jan. 15 issue of Science. Learn more about NSF support for brain research at NSF.gov/brain and neuroengineering projects at NSF.gov/brainpower.

Provided by the National Science Foundation

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