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Seeing Through to a Mouse’s Nervous System

Scientists have come up with a new method for rendering mice and other organisms transparent. Called uDISCO, this optical clearing method allows researchers to selectively highlight the inner workings of usually opaque organisms, lighting up the entire nervous system of a mouse for high-resolution single-cell fluorescence imaging. The authors believe the technique will one day be expanded from mice and rats to the mapping the entire human brain.

Learn More @ The New York Times

Bright Monomeric Near-infrared Fluorescent Proteins as Tags and Biosensors for Multiscale Imaging.

A new open-access paper in Nature Communications takes a closer look at near-infrared fluorescent proteins (IFPs) as optical markers and biosensors for multi-color and thick-specimen imaging. Near-infrared light is not as strongly scattered or absorbed by biological structures as visible wavelengths, making it ideal for deep tissue and in vivo imaging of larger organisms. The authors report 3 new IFPs, validating their utility for imaging, including multi-color Structured Illumination Microscopy with Nikon’s N-SIM system.

Learn More @ Nature Communications

Jellyfish Proteins Used to Create Polariton Laser

In other news this week, scientists are using jellyfish proteins to create tiny lasers. For decades jellyfish-derived GFP (green fluorescent protein) has served as a go-to tool for lighting up different parts of the cell. It turns out that the structure of GFP also makes it a great gain medium for polariton lasers - a special type of low energy laser. Also, unlike existing polariton lasers, the new GFP laser doesn't need to be heavily cooled, operating at room temperature.

Learn More @ PHYS.ORG

A Nanoscale Interface Promoting Molecular and Functional Differentiation of Neural Cells

Here’s a new open-access paper in Scientific Reports detailing the use of Hydrotalcite-like compounds (HTlc) as nanostructured interfaces that are biocompatible with astrocytes in vitro. The use of nanostructured interfaces allows researchers to exert control of cellular behavior at several different scales. HTlc films favor astrocyte differentiation by inducing vinculin polarization and F-actin fiber alignment. This was assessed in part by imaging immunofluorescence with Nikon ECLIPSE 80i and TE-2000U research microscopes.

Learn More @ Nature Scientific Reports

US Grants for Zebrafish Studies on the Rise

A new assessment by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Portfolio Analysis has found that the popularity of zebrafish as model organisms rose by approximately 60% from 2008 to 2015, marking a shift in model organism trends. This was determined by data mining of successful R01 awards from that period, which found zebrafish mentioned in over 9500 successful grant applications.

Learn More @ Nature

A Far-red Fluorescent Protein Evolved from a Cyanobacterial Phycobiliprotein

A team of researchers have developed a new far-red fluorescent protein (FP): smURFP. This new FP variant has 642 nm excitation and 670 nm emission peaks, an extinction coefficient of 180,000 M−1cm, quantum yield of 18%, and comparable photostability to EGFP. Previous FPs in this spectral class were based upon bacteriophytochromes, but smURFP is part of a new class of FPs evolved from an allophycocyanin alpha-subunit. Such far-red FPs are popular for imaging in live animals because of reduced scattering and absorption.

Learn More @ Nature Methods

Imaging the Brain at Multiple Size Scales

Over the past decade big advances have been made in optical ‪#microscopy‬ for seeing very small details. Recently, Expansion Microscopy has been introduced for imaging such fine detail by making small samples bigger. ‪MIT scientists use this new method to image entire tissues, such as whole mouse brains, by swelling them to over 4x their original size.

Learn More @ MIT News

NIH Plans To Lift Ban On Research Funds For Part-Human, Part-Animal Embryos

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is advancing a new policy to allow the use of federal money to make chimeras – organisms with two or more genetically distinct populations of cells, including those of different species. There are many possible applications for chimeras, including the use of part-human chimeras as animal models for disease. Extra care is being taken to try to address possible ethical concerns.

Learn More @ npr

Strain and Rate-dependent Neuronal Injury in a 3D in vitro Compression Model of Traumatic Brain Injury

Researchers at Brown University have developed a new in vitro model for assessing neuronal injury due to impact tissue strain, as experienced during traumatic brain injury. Injury is simulated in a 3D neuronal culture using a voice coil actuator mounted on a Nikon A1 confocal microscope, allowing for quantification of neuronal lifetime, pathomorphology, and viability with high spatiotemporal accuracy before, during, and after injury. The results are expected to be of high importance for developing future mitigation and diagnosis programs. Article is open access

Learn More @ Nature

Ultra-High Resolution 3D Imaging of Whole Cells

Check out this new open-access resource article from researchers at Yale University detailing a 4Pi single molecule localization microscope with isotropic localization precision of ~10-20 nm. Importantly this new nanoscope can be used to image samples up to 10 um thick, a significant improvement over previous two-objective localization microscopy approaches. This is made possible by using deformable mirrors to correct for depth-induced changes in the shape of the point-spread function.

Learn More @ Cell

An Optogenetic System for Photoinduced Protein Dissociation

A new method has been introduced for light-induced protein dissociation, termed LOVTRAP. This optogenetic approach uses a mutant z subunit of protein A, named Zdk, which binds to a light-oxygen-voltage-sensing domain (LOV2) with precise kinetics. Binding occurs in the dark, with over a 150-fold rise in the dissociation constant upon excitation with blue light. The authors demonstrate reversible sequestration of multiple proteins of interest (POI) to the mitochondrial outer membrane by anchoring LOV2 to mitochondria and fusing the POI to Zdk.

Learn More @ Nature Methods

Which Iconic Science Centers are also Pokémon GO Hot Spots?

Pokémon GO has been sweeping the world this past week. Here's a fun article in ‎Science Magazine detailing Pokémon hotspots at various iconic centers of science, including NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Large Hadron Collider (it has also been confirmed that there are no Pokémon on the International Space Station). To this list we'd like to add the Dratini we found at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA.

Learn More @ Science Magazine

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