Scientists create new map of dead mice that showcase details at cellular level

The technology named "wildDISCO" revealed tissues, nerves, and vessels in various bright colors.
Mrigakshi Dixit
Representational image
Representational image


Scientists are always looking for ways to better understand the biological functioning of the body at the cellular level. Understanding the tiny complex networks found in our bodies could lead to new ways of understanding how certain diseases progress and, as a result, finding target treatments. 

That said, scientists from the Helmholtz Munich research institute have created an intricate anatomy map of dead mice bodies. This novel method allows researchers to understand mouse biology at the cellular level as well as see the difficult-to-see neural connections between organs. 

According to the report, the map highlighted tissues, nerves, and vessels in various bright colors. The team has named this technology "wildDISCO."

Seeing the anatomy closely

The team removed cholesterol from the model bodies to allow various existing antibodies to go deep into the animals to create this 3D map. This method allowed immunoglobulin G antibodies to penetrate into the organisms' entire tissues. This was accomplished by exposing the dead mouse bodies to a chemical called beta-cyclodextrin for two weeks in order to dissolve cholesterol in the cell membrane. According to the Science article, this resulted in the formation of sponge-like holes in the mouse while causing no harm to the other tissues.

“We present wildDISCO, a technology that uses cholesterol extraction to enable deep tissue penetration of standard 150 kDa IgG antibodies in chemically fixed whole mice. Combining wildDISCO with whole mouse clearing, we generate whole-body maps of the nervous, immune, and lymphatic systems and show their close interactions throughout the mouse body," noted the research paper, available in the pre-print server for biology. 

The initial visualization was able to reveal never-before-seen nervous system structures, as well as a group of nerves used for gastrointestinal functions and organs in the lymphatic system. 

Through this technique, scientists and doctors will be able to better understand the interconnected networks at the cellular level than ever before. “Most diseases involve multiple interconnected physiological systems, but histological evaluation of their pathology is currently limited to small tissue samples,” stated the paper. 

After this first study, the team is planning to create a comprehensive map of the lymphatic system in order to better understand cancer progression.

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