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Scientists create colorful 'brainbow' images of the nervous system
Date:10/31/2007

ed fluorescent proteins. The researchers painstakingly assembled the Brainbow transgene from snippets of DNA, and inserted it into neuronal DNA. As they predicted, the cut-and-paste recombination occurred totally at random, in the process assigning scores of different colors to neurons. This variation makes neurons leap out from one another visually under ordinary confocal microscopy.

"The technique drives the cell to switch on fluorescent protein genes in neurons more or less at random," says Livet, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Center for Brain Science who did much of the legwork behind Brainbow. "You can think of Brainbow almost like a slot machine in its generation of random outcomes, and Cre/lox is the hand pulling the lever over and over again."

Using Brainbow to look at mouse neural circuits over periods as long as 50 days, the Harvard researchers were able to observe some neural reorganization over time and to ascertain that Brainbow labeling is stable and long-lived. Livet, Sanes, Lichtman, and colleagues are now using Brainbow to scour the nervous system for new insights into its organization and function.

"We've already used Brainbow to take a first peek at the nervous system of mice, and we've observed some very interesting, and previously unrecognized, patterns of neuron arrangement," says Sanes, professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Center for Brain Science at Harvard. "As far as understanding what we're seeing, we've only just scratched the surface."


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Contact: Steve Bradt
steve_bradt@harvard.edu
617-496-8070
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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