MAR 12, 2018 4:44 PM PDT

A Totally New Way to Image Live Cells in the Brain

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

To investigate the intricate processes underlying biology, scientists often have to take a close look at incredibly tiny structures, something that isn’t always very easy. There have been incredible advancements in microscopy since it was first developed several hundred years ago, and the technology continues to improve all the time. Researchers can now get an accurate look at stuff that exists on the nanoscale, at only a few billionths of a meter wide.  When such small objects in biological tissue are under study, structures and proteins in the cell usually have to be labeled. That is often done with fluorescent tags or antibodies, that can be seen under specialized lighting in a microscope. There are many technical limitations to such work, however. 

Image of the neuron labelled in yellow surrounded by unlabelled neurons (appearing in white) using the SUSHI technique. Without this technique, the neurons appearing in white would not be visible. / Credit: © Jan Tønnesen & Valentin Nägerl.

A new technique aims to address some of those hurdles. Cells in the brain are densely interconnected and closely related; to get a better look at those relationships, scientists have created SUSHI, or Super-resolution Shadow Imaging. It was developed by the team of Dr. Jan Tønnesen, a researcher in the Ramón y Cajal Programme at the UPV/EHU's Department of Neurosciences. 

Reporting in Cell, the tool is specifically for imaging live brain tissue. Now a researcher does not have to label each cell of interest, but instead, fills the empty spaces in between in one fell swoop. The label also stays outside of the cells, acting as a negative contrast to the brain cells it surrounds. This process makes for a much easier and more straightforward way to see cells in living tissue.

"The SUSHI technique is revolutionary because it allows us to simultaneously image all the brain cells in a specific region of living brain tissue,” noted Dr. Tønnesen. “In the past we used to come across blank spaces in the microscopy images, because we were unable to label all the cells at the same time. This fact was a big constraint for us. From now on, this technique will enable us to see all the cells in the area of study that we put under the microscope lens as well as all their interactions, and that will allow us to advance our knowledge of brain functions in a healthy organ and in a diseased one".

You can check out a video above of images of brain cells produced by the scientists. In the video below, you can hear more about super-resolution microscopy. 

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University of the Basque Country, Cell

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
DEC 18, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 18, 2019
Using Nanopores to Sequence Proteins
Researchers have now created a way to use nanopores to identify the amino acids that make up a protein....
DEC 22, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 22, 2019
Functional Mini-Livers Made With New Bioprinting Technique
This technique, could be useful in the production of complete organs that can be transplanted into patients....
DEC 28, 2019
Health & Medicine
DEC 28, 2019
Consider Skipping The Post-Workout Ice Bath
In an effort to get heart-healthy, many people have experienced the painful after-effects of an intense workout. Weather cardiovascular or strength trainin...
JAN 12, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JAN 12, 2020
Changing Two Cellular Pathways Extends Lifespan Significantly
Altering two signaling pathways extended the lives of a research model called C elegans by an astonishing 500 percent....
FEB 03, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 03, 2020
The Switch Controlling the Stage of a Common Parasite
The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is thought to infect from one-quarter to one-third of the global population....
FEB 23, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 23, 2020
A New Class of Bacterial Enzymes is Discovered
Bacterial enzymes can serve many processes, from breaking down pollutants and digesting foods to metabolizing drugs....
Loading Comments...