The Big Picture: a closer look at live rodent nerve cells

Big Pict


What you’re looking at up above isn’t a crazy anaglyph 3D image. Well, at least not intentionally. It’s actually the result of a decade-old tagging method that researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Italy are now using in live mice. The method, called SNAP-tagging, uses proteins that latch onto specific chemical structures and don’t let go. To explore rodent nerves, researchers genetically engineered the mice to produce SNAP proteins and then injected the vermin with fluorescent probes that the proteins would attach to. This allows them to be followed through the body with a microscope. For example, in the picture above, the thick blue lines are hairs and the red bundles are nerves.

The ultimate goal is to put the SNAP tags into individual neurons and watch the path that information takes through the brain, nerve by nerve, as the subject’s skin is stimulated. Pretty cool, yeah? A handful of additional images are at the source link below.

[Image credit: EMBL / Castaldi]


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