Fri, 02 Nov 2007 01:47 CDT
Borrowing genes from bacteria, coral and jellyfish, scientists have set mice brains aglow in a bold panoply of colors, revealing the intricate highways and byways of neuronal connections.
The technique, dubbed "Brainbow" by its Harvard University inventors, is detailed in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Nature.
|©Credit: Livet et al. Nature 1st Nov 2007
|In 'Brainbow' transgenic mice, nerve cells randomly express fluorescent proteins of different colors. Combinations of these proteins label neurons with multiple distinct hues, as seen here neurons of the hippocampus (confocal microscopy, dentate gyrus).
Previous techniques for highlighting neurons used at most two colors. One common approach developed in 1873 by an Italian physician and still used today, called the Golgi method, stains neurons in their entirety but only affects a few brain cells at a time.
In contrast, Brainbow allows researchers to tag several hundred neurons at once with roughly 90 distinct colors. The resulting images , which resemble abstract color paintings, are both beautiful and informative. They look like they could hang in a modern art museum and are among the most detailed images of neuronal connections ever made.