A scientist presents brain tissue

Studying human brain tissue in 3D

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An international team has developed a cutting-edge technique, enabling human brain tissue to be studied in 3D.

A collaborative team of scientists from Imperial College London and The University of Hong Kong have made a breakthrough in the study of human brain tissue at microscopic level.

The new technique - called 'OPTIClear' - capitalises upon recent advances that allow researchers to study brain tissue in 3D, by making the tissue transparent or see through.

However, these techniques were originally developed with brain tissue from mice and rats. They needed further development to be used in research using post-mortem human brain tissue.

The new approach - which is relatively inexpensive, time efficient and easy to carry out - enables researchers to study post-mortem human brain tissue in meticulous, 3D detail.

The research is published today in the journal Nature Communications and was funded by the British Neuropathological Society, Alzheimer's Research UK and Parkinson's UK.

A whole new dimension to studying brain tissue

Professor Steve Gentleman, Scientific Director at the Parkinson's UK Brain Bank, says:

"This technique gives a whole new dimension to looking at connectivity within the brain to find out what's going wrong for people with Parkinson's.

"The highly detailed, 3D view allows us to see how cells are interacting – or not, as the case may be.

"We were able to develop the imaging because of our unique resources at the Parkinson's UK Brain Bank. This wouldn't have been possible without the wonderful altruism of our donors."

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Find out about brain donation

The Parkinson's UK Brain Bank, based at Imperial College London, collects precious tissue from people with and without Parkinson's who have decided to leave their brains to Parkinson's research.

Find out more about the brain bank