Navigation Links
Sharp images from the living mouse brain
Date:2/6/2012

This release is available in German.

To explore the most intricate structures of the brain in order to decipher how it functions Stefan Hell's team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Gttingen has made a significant step closer to this goal. Using the STED microscopy developed by Hell, the scientists have, for the first time, managed to record detailed live images inside the brain of a living mouse. Captured in the previously impossible resolution of less than 70 nanometers, these images have made the minute structures visible which allow nerve cells to communicate with each other. This application of STED microscopy opens up numerous new possibilities for neuroscientists to decode fundamental processes in the brain.

Every day a huge quantity of information travels not only over our information superhighways; our brain must process an enormous amount of data as well. In order to do this, each of the approximately hundred billion nerve cells establishes contact with thousands of neighboring nerve cells. The entire data exchange takes place via contact sites the synapses. Only if the nerve cells communicate via such contact sites at the right time and at the right place can the brain master its complex tasks: We play a difficult piece of piano, learn to juggle, or remember the names of people we have not seen for years.

We can learn most about these important contact sites in the brain by observing them at work. When and where do new synapses form and why do they disappear elsewhere? This is not easy to determine, since details in living nerve cells can only be observed with optical microscopes. Due to the diffraction of light, however, structures located closer together than 200 nanometers (200 millionths of a millimeter) appear as a single blurred spot. The STED microscopy developed by Stefan Hell and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry is a groundbreaking method devised to surpass this resolution limit. They use a simple trick: Closely-positioned elements are kept dark under a special laser beam so that they emit fluorescence sequentially one after the other, rather than simultaneously, and can therefore be distinguished. Using this technique, Hell's team has been able to increase the resolution by approximately tenfold compared to conventional optical microscopes.

STED microscopy has already found wide application in fields ranging from materials research to cell biology. Under this microscope, cell cultures and histological preparations have offered unique insights into the cellular nanocosmos. The first real-time video clips from the interior of a nerve cell have demonstrated how tiny transmitter vesicles migrate within the long nerve cell endings.

A vision becomes reality

What was only an ambitious vision a year ago has now become reality: to also study higher living organisms at this sharp resolution in the nanometer range. By looking directly into the brains of living mice using a STED microscope, Hell and his team were the first ones to image nerve cells in the upper brain layer of the rodent with resolution far beyond the diffraction limit.

"With our STED microscope we can clearly see the very fine dendritic structures of nerve cells at which the synapses are located in the brain of a living mouse. At a resolution of 70 nanometers, we easily recognize these so-called dendritic spines with their mushroom- or button-shaped heads," explains Hell. They are the clearest images of these fundamental contact sites in the brain to date. "To make these visible, we take genetically modified mice that produce large quantities of a yellow fluorescing protein in their nerve cells. This protein migrates into all the branches of the nerve cell, even into smallest, finest structures," adds Katrin Willig, a postdoctoral researcher in Hell's department. The genetically modified mice for these experiments originated from the group of Frank Kirchhoff at the Gttingen Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine. Images of the nerve cells taken seven to eight minutes apart revealed something surprising: The dendritic spine heads move and change their shape. "In the future, these super-sharp live images could even show how certain proteins are distributed at the contact points," adds Hell. With such increasingly detailed images of structures in the brain, Hell's team hopes to shed light onto the composition and function of the synapses on the molecular level.

Such insights could also help to better understand illnesses that are caused by synapse malfunction. Among these so-called synaptopathies are, for example, autism and epilepsy. As Hell explains, "Through STED microscopy and its application in living organisms, we should now be able to gain optical access of such illnesses on the molecular scale for the first time." As one of the two representatives of the Gttingen Research Center Molecular Physiology of the Brain funded by the German Research Foundation, he is committed to collaboration in his further research. Together with neurobiologists and neurologists, he and his team plan to transfer the progress made in imaging technology into fundamental knowledge about the functioning of our brains.


'/>"/>

Contact: Stefan W. Hell
shell@gwdg.de
49-551-201-2500
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Taking sharper aim at stomach ulcer bacteria
2. Proposed dietary guidelines for Americans sharply debated
3. Measurements of CO2 and CO in Chinas air indicate sharply improved combustion efficiency
4. Mouse brain seen in sharpest detail ever
5. Ever-sharp urchin teeth may yield tools that never need honing
6. Sharply focused on neurons, light controls a worms behavior
7. Tahoe native fish population declines sharply, invasives on the rise
8. Nurturing newborn neurons sharpens minds in mice
9. Sharpening the nanofocus
10. Sharper, deeper, faster
11. NASA satellite confirms sharp decline in pollution from US coal power plants
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Sharp images from the living mouse brain
(Date:7/20/2017)... WASHINGTON , July 20, 2017 Delta (NYSE: ... to board any Delta aircraft at Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). ... Delta launches biometrics ... Delta,s ... Delta Sky Club is now integrated into the boarding process to ...
(Date:6/23/2017)... and ITHACA, N.Y. , June ... Cornell University, a leader in dairy research, today announced ... designed to help reduce the chances that the global ... onset of this dairy project, Cornell University has become ... Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, a food safety initiative ...
(Date:5/23/2017)... , May 23, 2017  Hunova, the first robotic gym for the ... been officially launched in Genoa, Italy . The first ... and the USA . The technology was developed ... market by the IIT spin-off Movendo Technology thanks to a 10 million ... News Release, please click: ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:8/15/2017)... ... ... Kapstone Medical is proud to announce that it has reached ... inventors develop and safeguard their latest innovations. The company has grown from a ... clients in the United States and around the world. , Company Founder and ...
(Date:8/15/2017)... ... 15, 2017 , ... The Conference Forum and The Trout ... a series of upcoming panels and events. The partnership culminates with the 4th ... in New York City. , “With our experience in producing the Immuno-Oncology 360° NYC ...
(Date:8/14/2017)... ... , ... The Conference Forum has confirmed the one-day agenda for ... 6, 2017 at the Marriott Copley Place in Boston, MA. , Returning as program ... Strategy, Pfizer Innovative Research Lab, Pfizer, who leads 19 industry speakers in discussing how ...
(Date:8/10/2017)... , ... August 09, 2017 , ... ... help the agriculture industry reach its ideal customers with the right message. Their ... , “As a Midwest company, we realize how crucial the agriculture industry is,” ...
Breaking Biology Technology: