New microscopes help capture the complexity of brain organisation

Stunning images have been revealed of the complexity of organ development by a new generation of microscopes that are able to process large data sets faster than existing microscope. In traditional microscopes, the user cuts the sample with a blade and then observes it under the microscope. A light sheet microscope uses a ‘sheet’ of light to cut the sample. MesoSPIMs are a light sheet microscope but are far faster because they use new optical technology that allows for fast scanning of samples as well as direct observation and quantification of the samples.

The “Mesoscale selective plane-illumination microscopes’” or MesoSPIMs for short, capture a sliver of the image cut without any damage to the material itself. When finished, all the ‘slices’ are then recomposed into a 3d image of the organ.

There are only seven MesoSPIMs in operation across Europe with several more being built. An open source initiative , hopes to encourage more MesoSPIMs by sharing expertise as well as their results and stunning images. A MesoSPIM costs in the region of €200,000 .

Continued below images

MesoSPIM - Developing nervous system of a seven day old chicken embryo
MesoSPIM – Developing nervous system of a seven day old chicken embryo

The new MesoSPIMS allow researchers to image the minute detail of brain tissue down to individual neurons that are five times thinner than a human hair, and can uncover the 3D anatomy of entire small organs, faster than ever before.

The mesoSPIM Initiative, started by Dr. Fabian Voigt in the group of Prof. Fritjof Helmchen at the Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich, enables the integration of cutting-edge technologies into research labs worldwide. “We created the open-source mesoSPIM Initiative to share the latest developments in microscope instrumentation and software with the imaging community. Anyone seeking high-quality anatomical data from large samples now has the information they need to build and operate their own mesoSPIM.” said Voigt.

Mouse Vasculature
Mouse Vasculature

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