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See-through mice reveal details of inner anatomy

  • This undated image provided by Caltech shows a 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled brain cells within an intact brain tissue of a rodent. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers have described a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. (AP Photo/Caltech, Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru)

    This undated image provided by Caltech shows a 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled brain cells within an intact brain tissue of a rodent. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers have described a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. (AP Photo/Caltech, Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru)

  • This undated image provided by the journal Cell shows a 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled intestine cells within an intact intestine tissue of a rodent. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers have described a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. (AP Photo/Cell, Bin Yang, and Viviana Gradinaru via Caltech)

    This undated image provided by the journal Cell shows a 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled intestine cells within an intact intestine tissue of a rodent. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers have described a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. (AP Photo/Cell, Bin Yang, and Viviana Gradinaru via Caltech)

  • This 2014 image provided by the journal Cell shows a 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled kidney cells within an intact kidney tissue in a rodent. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers have described a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. (AP Photo/Cell, Bin Yang, and Viviana Gradinaru via Caltech)

    This 2014 image provided by the journal Cell shows a 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled kidney cells within an intact kidney tissue in a rodent. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers have described a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. (AP Photo/Cell, Bin Yang, and Viviana Gradinaru via Caltech)

  • This undated photo combo provided by the journal Cell and taken with a bright field camera, shows a mouse with its skin removed during various stages of examination. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers describe a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. The center image shows the mouse after one week of the process. The image at right shows the latter stage, showing the brain of the mouse with it's skull removed. (AP Photo/Cell, Yang et al)

    This undated photo combo provided by the journal Cell and taken with a bright field camera, shows a mouse with its skin removed during various stages of examination. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers describe a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. The center image shows the mouse after one week of the process. The image at right shows the latter stage, showing the brain of the mouse with it's skull removed. (AP Photo/Cell, Yang et al)

  • This undated image provided by Caltech shows a 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled brain cells within an intact brain tissue of a rodent. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers have described a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. (AP Photo/Caltech, Bin Yang and Viviana Gradinaru)
  • This undated image provided by the journal Cell shows a 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled intestine cells within an intact intestine tissue of a rodent. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers have described a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. (AP Photo/Cell, Bin Yang, and Viviana Gradinaru via Caltech)
  • This 2014 image provided by the journal Cell shows a 3-D visualization of fluorescently-labeled kidney cells within an intact kidney tissue in a rodent. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers have described a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. (AP Photo/Cell, Bin Yang, and Viviana Gradinaru via Caltech)
  • This undated photo combo provided by the journal Cell and taken with a bright field camera, shows a mouse with its skin removed during various stages of examination. In a study released by the journal Cell on Thursday, July 31, 2014, researchers describe a way to make see-through mice and rats, a step that should help them study fine details of anatomy for basic research. The center image shows the mouse after one week of the process. The image at right shows the latter stage, showing the brain of the mouse with it's skull removed. (AP Photo/Cell, Yang et al)

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 made their inner organs transparent, but not their bones.

The results look like a rodent-shaped block of gelatin with the organs held in place by connective tissue and a gel used in the procedure.

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 or MRI exams could deliver.

The new work is the first to make an entire transparent mouse, experts said.

It should be useful for projects like mapping the details of the nervous system or the spread of cancer within lab animals, said Vivian Gradinaru of the California Institute of Technology, senior author of a paper describing the work. It was released yesterday by the journal Cell.

It might also help doctors analyze biopsy samples from people someday, she said.

The see-through technique involves pumping a series of chemicals through blood vessels, as well as other passages in the brain and spinal cord. Some chemicals form a mesh to hold tissue in place. Others wash out the fats that make tissue block light. It takes about a week to create a transparent mouse, Gradinaru said.

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