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Tracking individual red blood cells by new microscopy technique allows blood flow to be visualised in life in detail

09 August 2022

Food for Thought

Our brains allow us to climb mountains, write poems, and investigate distant galaxies. But this comes at a price: the brain consumes a fifth of the body's energy. The bloodstream feeds the brain – if it's cut off for just a few minutes, the damage is irreversible. Luckily, we've evolved ways to control the brain's blood supply in response to its energy demands. Due to technological limits, we still don't fully understand how this works. Researchers have developed a new approach called FACED (free-space angular chirp enhanced delay). By boosting the imaging speed of microscopy, it provides unparalleled insight into the brain's blood flow. Here, the left video shows traditional microscopy, and the right shows FACED: we only see individual red blood cells in the latter. Alzheimer's disease, strokes, and ageing interrupt the brain's blood flow. The extra detail revealed by FACED may help us understand what's going wrong and how to fix it.

Written by Henry Stennett

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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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