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MIT chemical engineers and neuroscientists have devised a new way to preserve biological tissue, allowing them to visualize proteins, DNA, and other molecules within cells, and to map the connections between neurons.
The researchers showed that they could use this method, known as SHIELD, to trace the connections between neurons in a part of the brain that helps control movement and other neurons throughout the brain.
Technique - Time - Connectivity - Neurons - Resolution
"Using our technique, for the first time, we were able to map the connectivity of these neurons at single-cell resolution," says Kwanghun Chung, an assistant professor of chemical engineering and a member of MIT's Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. "We can get all this multiscale, multidimensional information from the same tissue in a fully integrated manner because with SHIELD we can protect all this information."
Chung is the senior author of the paper, which appears in the Dec. 17 issue of Nature Biotechnology. The paper's lead authors are MIT postdocs Young-Gyun Park, Chang Ho Sohn, and Ritchie Chen.
Chung - Team - Researchers - Institutions - National
Chung is now leading a team of researchers from several institutions that recently received a National Institutes of Health grant to use this technique to produce three-dimensional maps of the entire human brain. "We will be working with the Matthew Frosch group at MGH, the Van Wedeen group at MGH, the Sebastian Seung group at Princeton, and the Laura Brattain group at MIT Lincoln Lab to generate the most comprehensive brain map yet," he says.
Brain tissue is very delicate and cannot be easily studied unless steps are taken to preserve the tissue from damage. Chung and other researchers have previously developed techniques that allow them to preserve certain molecular components of brain tissue for research, including proteins or messenger RNA, which reveals which genes are turned on.
However, Chung says, "there is no...
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