An Invisibility Cloak – For Your Brain!

Yep, they’ve done it. Scientists have finally created a chemical concoction that turns your organs transparent. It may sound like an odd thing to do (unless you’re in the habit of genetically designing mutant super-heroes), but in this case, it appears the chemical invisibility cloak seeks a higher purpose.

Imaris Snapshot

The biggest push for the creation of transparent brains is the scientific field of “connectomics.” Connectomics seeks to understand the goings on of our brain. According to Thomas Insel, director of the United States National Institute of Mental Health, “This is probably one of the most important advances in doing neuroanatomy in decades.”

So, how does it work?

Imaris Snapshot

The reason scientists have been working to find new ways of understanding brain dynamics, is because current methods don’t give a complete picture. Present technology takes images of small slivers of the brain at a time then begins the mighty task of reconstructing the brain in full. Although impressive, this leaves a rather ‘stitched-together’ image of how the brain is connected in reality.

With this new (transparent) chemical method, called CLARITY, it’s possible to produce entire brain renderings and actually circumvent some of the things preventing scientists from getting a good look at the brain via traditional methods (like fatty acids that make the pictures foggy). CLARITY transparent images therefore, give a much better result than the slicing, snapping, and piecing back together process.

So far, research has only been conducted on mice (lab mice have terrible lives), however, the next step will be to use CLARITY on the human brain. Hopefully, this will lead to a better method for comparing healthy and unhealthy brains to better understand how neurological diseases work. Given the end process can be used on still-functioning brains without negatively affecting the patient, it may lead to treatments and cures for those who suffer from some of the most devastating diseases.

And we thought invisibility couldn’t get any cooler.

Cover Image at this link

CLARITY Images at this link