Tech It Out: Fluorescent Probes Help Visualize Live Brain Cells

This technique is known today as the “fluorescent probes.” It helps visualize brain activities, allowing scientists to understand how the brain reacts when it is engaged in a specific behavior – in a much more economical and straightforward way.

Tech It Out: Fluorescent probes help visualize live brain cells

By Dong Yi

For the past 400 years, neural scientists have relied heavily on improving the optical resolution of microscopes to see the tiniest structure inside human brains.

But the technology had its limitations, most notably the limited optical resolution. It was also only applicable to sections cut off from dead brain slices. It also didn’t help that different parts of the brain all tend to be of the same grey color under the microscope.

That is what inspired Dr Kiryl Piatkevich and his team at China’s Westlake University to experiment creatively. What if we light up a live brain with different colors that represent different parts of the organ?

A human brain functions through a network of neurons. They communicate with each other and process information, using rapid electrical impulses.

Dr Piatkevich’s team successfully developed a molecule that, when electrified, can glow in different fluorescent colors. These artificial molecules through a bioengineering process are introduced into a live brain and attach themselves to neurons without doing any harm. Then whenever the neurons are actively working, they light up under the microscope.

This technique is known today as the “fluorescent probes.” It helps visualize brain activities, allowing scientists to understand how the brain reacts when it is engaged in a specific behavior – in a much more economical and straightforward way.

Originally published at Cgtn

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