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Brain architecture revealed by microscopy without need for labelling

17 April 2022

New Without Tags

Allowing scientists to snoop on life in dark places, microscopy continues to adapt to new challenges. One problem is that lasers aimed into delicate tissues like the brain usually need something to aim at – perhaps molecules of chemical dyes that label or ‘tag’ important structures. Yet labels can interfere with microscopic life, or hide subtle details behind their glare. Here, researchers have used a technique called QLIPP to take a detailed look inside an adult mouse’s brain without labelling. Instead, they measure what happens to laser light as it hits or passes through the tissues – changes in orientation reveal shapes and textures (highlighted in different colour) while delays in the light’s waves, their retardance, reveal different densities (highlighted by brightness). The team used use deep-learning to pinpoint areas like the thalamus (middle, blue) and optic tract (bottom yellow and purple) – in the future they may spot subtle changes in health and disease.

Written by John Ankers

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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.