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Brain Window

February 13, 2012

Researchers have captured images of single brain cells in a live animal.



A view to a brain.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Brain scans of living creatures are useful, but crude.  Now, German scientists have found a way to study single brain cells in a living animal.  The team included Katrin Willig and Stefan Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry.  They genetically engineered mice which expressed a harmless fluorescent protein in certain brain cells.  Then, as Willig explains:

KATRIN WILLIG (Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Germany):
We put a window on the cortex to look through the window into the brain.  So we can see now most of the detail.

In other words, they replaced a bit of the mouse skull with glass, allowing them to look into the living brains with an ultra-high-resolution microscope.  So far they’ve just proven that they can make out the neuron’s shape.  But the technique may eventually help scientists study the effects of drugs on individual brain cells. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.