The researchers showed that they could use this method, known as SHIELD, to trace the connections between neurons in a part of the brain that helps control movement and other neurons throughout the brain.
“Using our technique, for the first time, we were able to map the connectivity of these neurons at single-cell resolution,” says Kwanghun Chung, an assistant professor of chemical engineering and a member of MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. “We can get all this multiscale, multidimensional information from the same tissue in a fully integrated manner because with SHIELD we can protect all this information.”
Chung is the senior author of the paper, which appears in the Dec. 17 issue of Nature Biotechnology. The paper’s lead authors are MIT postdocs Young-Gyun Park, Chang Ho Sohn, and Ritchie Chen.
Chung is now leading a team of researchers from several institutions that recently received a National Institutes of Health grant to use this technique to produce three-dimensional maps of the entire human brain. “We will be working with Matthew Frosch group at MGH, Van Wedeen group at MGH, Sebastian Seung group at Princeton, and Laura Brattain group at MIT Lincoln Lab to generate the most comprehensive brain map yet,” he says.
Above: In a brain region called the globus pallidus externa, imaged using SHIELD, neurons that express a protein called parvalbumin are labeled in red, and neurons labeled blue express a protein called GAD1.
Image: Young-Gyun Park, Changho Sohn, Ritchie Chen, and Kwanghun Chung