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Adding Color Untangles the Brainís Gray Secrets
NY Times ^ | November 6, 2007 | BENEDICT CAREY

Posted on 11/05/2007 11:34:15 PM PST by neverdem

For an organ that has been scanned millions of times by experts using high-end imaging technology, the brain remains in large part a shrouded landscape, as lost in darkness as the ocean floor.

One reason has less to with the brain’s complexity than its uniformity: it contains billions of identical-looking cells, most sprouting multiple identical-looking branches to other cells, near and far. A needle in a haystack at least looks different from the strands around it; finding and mapping large numbers of neurons is more like working out the root system beneath a tropical rain forest.

But last week, researchers at Harvard published pictures in which all those anonymous gray cells glowed in distinctive colors, like a bougainvillea bush gone haywire.

The scientists bred mice so their brain cells had genetic inserts containing genes for three colors of fluorescent protein, red, green and blue. They prompted each insert to randomly express one color, using a genetic trigger. Because there were multiple copies of the three-gene insert in each cell, the cell itself expressed a random mixture of the three colors, some 90 shades in all. What emerged was a kind of beaded rainbow belt of neurons, with the fluorescent glow radiating out through each cell’s neural branches. The researchers called the technique “Brainbow.”

Scientists can use this technique in animals, whose brain systems work in ways similar to those of humans, to see exactly where each cell begins and ends, both within the brain and out through the spine and the limbs — and what happens in between.

“I take a view that this is like the Hubble telescope,” said Dr. Jeff Lichtman, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard who is the paper’s senior author...

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: brain; geneticengineering; research; science
Transgenic strategies for combinatorial expression of fluorescent proteins in the nervous system.

Photographs by Jean Livet
BRAINBOW Neurons in mice, in the hippocampus, left, and in the oculomotor nerve, right.


A movie also comes with the article if you have the right hardware and software, apparently. I think mine is too old.

1 posted on 11/05/2007 11:34:16 PM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem

Cool article, Thanks!

2 posted on 11/06/2007 12:13:20 AM PST by Westlander (Unleash the Neutron Bomb)
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To: neverdem

3 posted on 11/06/2007 12:20:19 AM PST by Westlander (Unleash the Neutron Bomb)
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To: Westlander

Wow! That’s incredible! It’s like the Aurora Borealis!

4 posted on 11/06/2007 12:33:16 AM PST by DrGunsforHands
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To: El Gato; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Robert A. Cook, PE; lepton; LadyDoc; jb6; tiamat; PGalt; Dianna; ...
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FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list. Anyone can post any unposted link as they see fit.

6 posted on 11/06/2007 8:17:46 AM PST by neverdem (Call talk radio. We need a Constitutional Amendment for Congressional term limits. Let's Roll!)
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To: neverdem

Very Cool. Thanks for the post!

7 posted on 11/08/2007 3:00:59 PM PST by LurkedLongEnough
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