Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology in Germany have developed a new method to make the spinal cord transparent and thus study the growth of nerve cells.
Spinal cord is opaque and for some time now, scientists have been examining ways to determine if the axons of the nerves can be stimulated to re-grow after spinal cord injury. Frank Bradke and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology have extensively studied regeneration of nerve cells following injuries to the spinal cord.
The team has now come up with a technique called ultramicroscopy. This technique was initially developed by Hans Ulrich Dodt from the Technical University of Vienna. The Max Planck team refined this process by removing the water that surrounds the spinal cord and replacing it with an emulsion that mirrors the way spinal proteins refract light.
"It's the same effect as if you were to spread honey onto textured glass", Ali Ertürk, the study's first author revealed. The researchers also said that this method can be applied to other kinds of tissues as well.