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23 October 2017

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Hurtling through cells like a spaceship zooming past the stars, this video takes you on a journey through a mouse’s brain. Interactive explorations like this provide valuable information about how various diseases take hold in the brain, but have always taken weeks to produce. A new technique, however, produced this visualisation in just a few hours. The aptly-named ‘FAST’ (block-face serial microscopy tomography) method automatically slices the brain into micro-layers, then processes the segments, producing images so detailed that individual cells, and their contents, can be seen. Dramatically reducing the time taken to process samples means multiple brains can be compared together, allowing a new avenue of investigation for researchers. The technique has already been scaled up and tested on human samples, raising hopes that it’ll soon be used to identify precise physical abnormalities in diseased brains, and ultimately lead to new treatments.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.