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MAP-ing the brain: Technology offers new insight on how the brain functions

Adjustable brain. Sounds straight out of a science fiction film, doesn't it? However, a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has succeeded in, essentially, making brain size adjustable.

In an article by MIT News, a new technology known as magnified analysis of proteome (MAP) is described as allowing images of the brain to be scanned at multiple scales, thus allowing scientists to further study and understand the structures of the brain and how they interact.

The work is a derivative of CLARITY, a method of making brain tissue transparent that was co-developed here by postdoctoral fellows Kwanghun Chung, PhD, (now at MIT) and Viviana Gradinaru, PhD, (now at Caltech) and others, along with their mentor, Stanford bioengineer Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD.

The new MAP technology builds upon CLARITY and follows 2014 work from the groups of Deisseroth and Gradinaru showing the method can powerfully expand tissue samples, while still preserving the proteins inside. Once the tissues are expanded, antibodies are used to tag target structures or molecules, allowing researchers to use common microscopes to obtain high-resolution images.

While MAP certainly offers scientists an unprecedented look at the brain, Chung and his team are still looking at ways they can improve it: "It's already easier than other techniques because the process is really simple and you can use off-the-shelf markers, but we are trying to make it even simpler."

Previously: Video reconstruction reveals stunning detail within a tiny section of brainHow CLARITY offers an unprecedented 3-D view of the brain's neural structureProcess that creates transparent brain named one of year's top scientific discoveries and Lightning strikes twice: Optogenetics pioneer Karl Deisseroth's newest technique renders tissues transparent, yet structurally intact

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