Scientists Made Mice That Are See-Through, Shrunken, and Glow in the Dark

A lab mouse that has made transparent and shrunk with the uDISCO technique. Image: Ali Ertürk/Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
Imagine being able to peer deep inside of a creature, without needing to dissect it first. If you were studying a specific organ or tumour, that would be incredibly useful—not to mention quite a sight to behold, seeing the inner machinery of the body. Scientists have found a way to make whole animals (like lab mice and rats) transparent, and their bits and pieces fluoresce. Down the road, it could be a useful technique to map and study the human brain.

By Bryson Masse | MOTHERBOARD

The technique is called “ultimate 3D imaging of solvent-cleared organs,” or uDISCO. It basically works around the fact that mammals are filled with water and lipids—fats that block the light from filtering through an organism. Right now, scientists have to use comparatively low resolution imaging techniques, like MRI or ultrasound, to actually see inside lab animals (unless they are willing to slice the sample up into thin slivers, and put them under a microscope).

“People take a very small piece of the tissue, let’s say a mouse’s visual cortex, and make very thin slices, image [them] with an electron microscope, and then put [the images] together,” Ali Ertürk of Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, lead author of the new study, which is published this week in Nature Methods, explained to Motherboard over the phone. “It has very high resolution, but the issue is that it’s very laborious.” Mapping out an entire mouse brain in this way would be so time-consuming that it just isn’t really feasible.

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