MBF Bioscience research team contributes novel dendritic spine analysis in study published in Science

Combination of new microscopy and expansion tissue preparation methods facilitate better and faster analysis of subcellular neural elements.

Today, the journal Science published a paper authored by a research team led by Dr. Ed Boyden of MIT and Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Eric Betzig of Janelia Research Campus. Among the authors are MBF Bioscience Scientific Director Dr. Susan Tappan and Senior Software Engineer Alfredo Rodriguez. In the paper, the researchers introduce new analyses for neural circuits at nanoscale resolutions.

Combining microscopy methods that create high resolution 3D images from whole brains and tissue that have been made physically larger, the researchers imaged a mouse cortex and fruit fly brain in their study “Cortical column and whole-brain imaging of neural circuits with molecular contrast and nanoscale resolution (Gao et al, 2019).”

By creating enhanced processing and analysis tools in MBF Bioscience’s Stereo Investigator and Neurolucida 360 software, Dr. Tappan and Mr. Rodriguez analyzed these images to obtain comprehensive morphometrics of delicate dendritic spines at a greater accuracy than ever before.

GAO ET AL./SCIENCE 2019

“We combined expansion microscopy and lattice light sheet microscopy (ExLLSM) to image the nanoscale spatial relationships between proteins across the thickness of the mouse cortex or the entire Drosophila brain, including synaptic proteins at dendritic spines, myelination along axons, and presynaptic densities at dopaminergic neurons in every fly neuropil domain.” (Gao et al, 2019)

While several forms of microscopy exist that have the ability to image subcellular neural elements, scientists say that each of these methods is lacking in one way or another. According to the paper, the combination of expansion microscopy with lattice-light sheet microscopy gives the most effective results, while considerably decreasing the time spent carrying out the experiment.

“I believe this type of imaging represents a major milestone in terms of the accuracy that can be achieved in dendritic spine morphometry from light microscopy,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

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