‘Taste of the future’: New microscopy technique captures stunning images of a fly’s brain

By Megan Thielking

A few years ago, neuroscientist Ed Boyden and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were brainstorming how to get a better look at the intricacies of brain cells and came up with a novel idea: just blow samples up like a balloon. Making a specimen bigger, they reasoned, would make everything easier to see.

Around the same time, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Eric Betzig and his colleagues at Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Virginia announced their own powerful new microscopy tool, which harnesses a sheet of light to illuminate tissue without doing as much damage as many microscopes do to samples. Now, those two teams of researchers have married their techniques to capture the nooks and crannies of a fruit fly brain and the mouse cortex in stunning detail. Their research, which was published Thursday in Science, could allow scientists to create more precise maps of the brain and find clues to the causes of brain diseases, Boyden said.

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