Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New technique to see neurons of the deep brain for months at a time developed at Stanford

Travel just one millimeter inside the brain and you'll be stepping into the dark.

Standard light microscopes don't allow researchers to look into the interior of the living brain, where memories are formed and diseases such as dementia and cancer can take their toll.

But Stanford scientists have devised a new method that not only lets them peer deep inside the brain to examine its neurons but also allows them to continue monitoring for months.

The technique promises to improve understanding of both the normal biology and diseased states of this hidden tissue.

Other recent advances in micro-optics had enabled scientists to take a peek at cells of the deep brain, but their observations captured only a momentary snapshot of the microscopic changes that occur over months and years with aging and illness.

The Stanford development appears online Jan. 16 in the journal Nature Medicine. It also will appear in the February 2011 print edition.

Scientists study many diseases of the deep brain using mouse models, mice that have been bred or genetically engineered to have diseases similar to human afflictions.

"Researchers will now be able to study mouse models in these deep areas in a way that wasn't available before," said senior author Mark Schnitzer, associate professor of biology and of applied physics.

Because light microscopy can only penetrate the outermost layer of tissues, any region of the brain deeper than 700 microns or so (about 1/32 of an inch) cannot be reached by traditional microscopy techniques. Recent advances in micro-optics had allowed scientists to briefly peer deeper into living tissues, but it was nearly impossible to return to the same location of the brain and it was very likely that the tissue of interest would become damaged or infected.

With the new method, "Imaging is possible over a very long time without damaging the region of interest," said Juergen Jung, operations manager of the Schnitzer lab. Tiny glass tubes, about half the width of a grain of rice, are carefully placed in the deep brain of an anaesthetized mouse. Once the tubes are in place, the brain is not exposed to the outside environment, thus preventing infection. When researchers want to examine the cells and their interactions at this site, they insert a tiny optical instrument called a microendoscope inside the glass guide tube. The guide tubes have glass windows at the ends through which scientists can examine the interior of the brain.

"It's a bit like looking through a porthole in a submarine," said Schnitzer.
The guide tubes allow researchers to return to exactly the same location of the deep brain repeatedly over weeks or months. While techniques like MRI scans could examine the deep brain, "they couldn't look at individual cells on a microscopic scale," said Schnitzer. Now, the delicate branches of neurons can be monitored during prolonged experiments.

To test the use of the technique for investigating brain disease, the researchers looked at a mouse model of glioma, a deadly form of brain cancer. They saw hallmarks of glioma growth in the deep brain that were previously known in tumors described as surficial (on or near the surface).

The severity of glioma tumors depends on their location. "The most aggressive brain tumors arise deep and not superficially," said Lawrence Recht, professor of neurology and neurological sciences. Why the position of glioma tumors affects their growth rate isn't understood, but this method would be a way to explore that question, Recht said.

In addition to continuing their studies of brain disease and the neuroscience of memory, the researchers hope to teach other researchers how to perform the technique.

The first three authors of the paper (all of whom contributed equally to the study) are Robert Barretto, a former doctoral student in biophysics and now a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University Medical Center; Tony Ko, a former postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biology; and Jung. Also contributing to the work – and listed as authors – are Tammy Wang, a former undergraduate in biomedical engineering; George Capps and Allison Waters, both former undergraduates in biology; and Yaniv Ziv and Alessio Attardo, both postdoctoral researchers in biology.

Louis Bergeron | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: MRI scan brain disease brain tumor deep brain mouse model

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht Gentle sensors for diagnosing brain disorders
29.09.2016 | King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

nachricht New imaging technique in Alzheimer’s disease - opens up possibilities for new drug development
28.09.2016 | Lund University

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>