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Transparent Organs: Images Reveal See-Through Mouse

Naked mouse

A mouse that has been rendered transparent by a technique called CLARITY that involves a water-based gel and detergents.

(Image credit: Cell, Yang et al.)

Scientists have rendered furry mice a bit naked with a serious technique called CLARITY, which could help them understand processes in the body. In fact, with the new technique, they created a completely see-through mouse (shown here), in which they could view the rodent's organs, including its lungs, kidneys, heart and even its brain.

See-Through Rodent

Here, three different views of the transparent mouse after the scientists had cleaned its body for one week with a method involving a water-based gel to hold the body's structure, followed by detergents to wash away the fatty molecules.

(Image credit: Cell, Yang et al.)

Here, three different views of the transparent mouse after the scientists had cleaned its body for one week with a method involving a water-based gel to hold the body's structure, followed by detergents to wash away the fatty molecules.

Amazing Kidney

A 3D visualization of kidney tissue from a mouse rendered transparent in the lab.

(Image credit: Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru)

The technique, which has been used to create transparent brains and embryos, had to be modified for the mice. The researchers injected the water-based gel and detergents directly into the mouse's bloodstream, something that was done to prevent damaging the mouse tissue. Within a few days of the injection, the kidneys turned ghostly. Here, a 3D visualization of such a see-through kidney tissue.

Fluorescent Brain Cells

In this 3-D visualization, fluorescently-labeled brain cells are revealed with intact brain tissue.

(Image credit: Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru)

This 3-D visualization shows brain cells, within intact brain tissue. The cells are fluorescently-labeled, making them stand out against the tissue. Seeing cells in their natural "environment" within tissue can give scientists a better understanding of how whole-body processes work, researchers say.

See-Through Intestine

A 3D visualization of an intact intestine from a mouse rendered transparent.

(Image credit: Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru)

The scientists also came up with a solution to store and image thick slices of this transparent tissue under a microscope. Here, a 3D visualization of an intact intestine from the see-through mouse.

Illuminating the Intestine

The structures within a mouse intestine, revealed in detailed using a new "tissue clearing" technique.

(Image credit: Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru)

This image reveals the structures within a mouse intestine. It was made from a compilation of cross-section images, taken throughout intact intestine tissue. The tissue labeled with fluorescent dyes, and imaged using a technique that involves injecting gels and detergents into the rodent's bloodstream.

Gut Blood Supply

Cross section of a mouse intestine, and its blood vessels, labeled with fluorescent dyes.

(Image credit: Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru)

In this cross-section image of intact mouse intestine tissue, blood vesicles are labeled with green fluorescent dye. The cells are labeled with red, and cell nuclei are labeled blue.

See-Through Brains

transparent mouse brain

(Image credit: Kwanghun Chung and Karl Deisseroth, Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Stanford University)

In 2013, the researchers published their work on making individual organs transparent. Here, a mouse brain at left, and its transparent -- but still intact -- counterpart is shown at right. The brains are shown superimposed over a quote from the great Spanish neuroanatomist Ramon y Cajal.