See-through mice show what goes on inside

  • Updated: August 9, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Building a better mouse: This photo taken with a bright field camera shows a mouse with its skin removed during various stages of examination. The result, which takes about a week, looks like a rodent-shaped block of gelatin with the organs held in place by connective tissue and a gel used in the procedure.

Photo: CalTech and Cell via Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Researchers have found a way to make see-through mice, but you won’t find these critters scampering in your kitchen. The transparent rodents aren’t alive, and they’re for research only — to help scientists study fine details of anatomy.

Before they are treated with chemicals, the animals are euthanized and their skin removed. Researchers make their inner organs transparent, but not their bones.

Mice are mainstays of biomedical research because much of their basic biology is similar to ours, and they can be altered in ways that simulate human diseases.

Scientists have been able to make tissues transparent to some degree for a century, and in recent years several new methods have been developed. Last year, for example, a technique that produced see-through mouse brains made headlines. Such treatments reveal far more detail than X-rays.

The new work is the first to make an entire transparent mouse and should be useful for projects like mapping the details of the nervous system or the spread of cancer in lab animals, said Vivian Gradinaru of the California Institute of Technology, senior author of a paper describing the work.

Associated Press

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions