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Looking through an Organism for Specific Cells

Caltech researchers have now developed ways to make tissues, organs, and even entire organisms transparent enough to see through. These techniques, namely PACT and PARS, allow them to target and visualize specific cells within a 3-D, whole organism. Both PACT and PARS are versatile new biological techniques with multiple applications in research and even clinical settings.

In the study, the researchers used PARS in rodents to view individual marked cells within organs like the brain, kidney, and intestine. They also applied the technique to a biopsy from a human skin-cancer patient; using PACT to make the tissue transparent, they could stain and clearly view the network of cancer cells through the rest of the skin tissue. Because this technique eliminates the need to physically isolate cells of interest, it is a user-friendly, more inexpensive, quicker alternative to previous methods.

To learn more about this advanced biological technique and to schedule an interview with the researcher, Caltech's Viviana Gradinaru, please email debwms@caltech.edu or call (626) 395-3227.

Images:

(To view a larger, high-resolution version of one of these photos, click on the image below. To download the high-resolution file, click the arrow at the top-left of that page.)

Kidney Cells
Caption: A 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled kidney cells within an intact kidney tissue. Through the use of this novel whole-body clearing and staining method, researchers can make an organism’s tissues transparent—allowing them to look through the tissues of an organism for specific cells that have been labeled or stained. (Yang et al, 2014)
Credit: Cell, Bin Yang, and Viviana Gradinaru

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Brain Cells
Caption: A 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled brain cells within an intact brain tissue. Through the use of this novel whole-body clearing and staining method, researchers can make an organism’s tissues transparent—allowing them to look through the tissues of an organism for specific cells that have been labeled or stained.
Credit: Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru

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Intestine Cells
Caption: A 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled intestine cells within an intact intestine tissue. Through the use of this novel whole-body clearing and staining method, researchers can make an organism’s tissues transparent—allowing them to look through the tissues of an organism for specific cells that have been labeled or stained.  (Yang et al, 2014)
Credit: Cell, Bin Yang, and Viviana Gradinaru

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Intestine Cells
Caption: Compilation of cross-section images taken throughout intact intestine tissue labeled with fluorescent dyes and imaged using the PARS technique.
Credit: Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru

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Intestine Cells
Caption: Cross-section image of blood vessels labeled with green fluorescent dye running throughout intact intestine tissue made visible using the PARS technique. In this image, blood vessels are labeled green, cells are labeled red, and cell nuclei are labeled blue.
Credit: Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru

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Intestine Cells
Caption: Cross-section image of cells in intact intestine tissue labeled with methylene blue, a fluorescent dye, and imaged using the PARS technique. In this image, blood blood vessels are labeled green, cells are labeled red, and cell nuclei are labeled blue.
Credit: Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru

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Intestine Cells
Caption: Cross-section image of cells in intact intestine tissue labeled with methylene blue, a fluorescent dye, and imaged using the PARS technique. In this image, blood blood vessels are labeled green, cells are labeled red, and cell nuclei are labeled blue.
Credit: Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru

high-res .tif

 

Video

This video shows step-wise cross-sectional images at different depths throughout fluorescently labeled intact intestine tissue. In these images, blood vessels are labeled green, cells are labeled red, and cell nuclei are labeled blue. Images were taken using the PARS technique.
Credit: Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru

This video shows step-wise cross-sectional images at different depths and angles throughout fluorescently labeled intact kidney tissue. In these images, tubulin is immunolabeled green, nucleic acids are labeled red, and yellow indicates overlay of the two. Images were taken using the PARS technique.
Credit:
Cell, Bin Yang, and Viviana Gradinaru/Caltech