We've also used specific species to study the embryo's development, such as the zebra fish, which has the awesome particularity of being transparent at that stage, and which we engineered to remain transparent all the way to adulthood.
A team of Japan scientists just discovered another, madder way to study organs. They developped a chemical reagent, Scale, which turns biological tissue transparent.
|Image courtesy of io9, very awesome science site|
Those are two mice embryo. The one on the right was treated with Scale, and now you can see everything inside.
Scale and Optical Imaging Techniques
The beauty of Scale isn't only that it can turn tissue transparent. It also does so without interfering with the fluorescent dye commonly used today in our best imagery techniques (these are very awesome, and I spoke about them in my three posts regarding the brainbow here, here and there).
This means scientists are able to colour specific tissues with a fluorescent protein and use the transparency reagent to remove all interferences. This gives them images of unprecedented clarity. The Japanese team used it to study the mouse's brain, but it is applicable to just every tissue under the sun.
What Remains to be Done
Scale currently has one big disadvantage: it's too potent to use on living organisms. Dr. Atsushi Miyawaki, the leading scientist on the japanese team, believes this could change. They're currently working on a "another, milder candidate reagent which would allow us to study live tissue in the same way, at somewhat lower levels of transparency."
If you want to know more, you can read the io9 article on the subject. I have to agree with them: the transparent embryo looks like a gummi. Yum!