Neuroscientists look for ways of studying molecular details of the brain. Edward Boyden, a neuroengineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, and his colleagues have developed a technique of make living cells and tissues bigger, which could enable biologists to image an entire brain in molecular detail using an ordinary microscope, and to resolve features that would normally be beyond the limits of optics. The technique, called expansion microscopy, involves physically inflating biological tissues using a material used in baby nappies. Boyden suggests that the technique can resolve molecules that are as close as 60nm before expansion. Importantly, the process maintains the relative orientation and interconnection of proteins and keeps other cellular structures intact: it distorts the relative position of proteins by only 1–4%. Although the technique seems revolutionary and promising, some experts have expressed skepticism regarding its practical use.
Read more in Nature.