New research shows a technique using ion beams to better see the structures inside human brain cells, which could help our understanding of brain diseases
image: A close-up look at human brain tissue using a new technique developed by Benjamin Creekmore and colleagues. view more
ROCKVILLE, MD – Improving the way scientists can see the microscopic structures of the brain can improve our understanding of a host of brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis. Studying these diseases is challenging and has been limited by accuracy of available models.
To see the smallest parts of cells, scientists often use a technique called electron microscopy. Electron microscopy historically involves adding chemicals and physically cutting the tissue. However, this approach can change the way the cells and structures look, perturbing their natural state, and can limit resolution. An alternative method, called cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET), provides clearer images of the brain's smallest parts in a more native state, however, it requires freezing. Freezing samples to cryogenic temperatures must be done carefully or ice crystals can form, disrupting the native anatomy.
But new research by Benjamin Creekmore in Yi-Wei Chang and Edward Lee’s labs at the University of Pennsylvania shows a new technique to study the human brain's ultrastructure. They will present their research at the 68th Biophysical Society Annual Meeting, to be held February 10 - 14, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.