A multi-institutional consortium that includes Duke University has created high resolution, three-dimentional microscopic images of tiny mouse brains, which unveil every layer of the organ.
The researchers could materialise this task by extending the capabilities of conventional magnetic resonance imaging.
"These images can be more than 100,000 times higher resolution than a clinical MRI scan," said G. Allan Johnson, Duke's Charles E. Putman Distinguished Professor of radiology and professor of biomedical engineering and physics, whose innovation has been reported in the journal NeuroImage.
The images available at http://www.civm.duhs.duke.edu/ show two different mouse brains-one from a normal animal and the other from a rodent missing a gene linked to mental abnormalities. These pictures show two colour-coded brain structures, the ventricles and hippocampus, showing different volumes resulting from specific genetic differences.
National Center for Research Resources is funding for the development of the new imaging technologies that are being shared by six institutions that form the Mouse Bioinformatics Research Network (MBIRN), including Duke University.
The consortium has developed the computer infrastructure to collect a rapidly growing library of 3-D mouse brain data, and make all the data available on the web http://tinyurl.com/3cgj6z. Its goal is to use mouse brains as surrogates for human brains to study the connections between genes and brain structure.
Investigators from all over the world are sending their models to Duke, where the 3-D images are acquired in a standardized fashion and made available via high speed web connections.
"The specimen is still actually in the skull. It hasn't been cut by a knife. It has not been dehydrated and distorted as it would be in conventional histological techniques," Johnson said.
The researcher says that MRI scanning is quicker and costs less than conventional histology, and it enables researchers to study the entire brain.
"We have the ability to highlight soft tissue differences with extraordinary clarity," Johnson said.