Transparent rodent
C. Pan et al., Nature Methods 13, 9 (22 August 2016) © MacMillian Publisher Ltd.

Scientists can see through these rodents

Seeing through objects may seem like something straight out of a comic book, but researchers have found a way to make entire animals transparent—from their brains to their bones. The method lets fluorescent proteins visibly shine through bodies, lighting up entire vascular systems (above) and other structures. To produce such light shows, researchers treat euthanized rodents with several organic solvents to remove the water and lipids that made them opaque. The technique is dubbed uDISCO because it’s a variant of the original DISCO technique, which stands for 3D imaging of solvent-cleared organs. Although other methods like CLARITY or PARS can similarly create transparency in animal tissues, uDISCO does it for the whole body in just a few days as opposed to weeks or months. This technique allows the highest resolution images yet for a whole body, its creators report online today in Nature Methods. That should help scientists better see how a disease affects neurons throughout the body—like how a stroke can cause neuromuscular weakness—because it’s nearly impossible to reconnect the millions of neurons throughout a rodent body once dissected. uDISCO isn’t just limited to nervous system studies, either. Its applications are nearly endless, giving any scientist the seemingly superhuman ability to see through rodents.