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Brainbow | by maiabee
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Brainbow: labeling neurons with combinations of fluorescent colors. 2002–07


Jean Livet, Tamily A. Weissman, Ryan W. Draft, Hyuno Kang, Ju Lu, Robyn A. Bennis, Joshua R. Sanes, and Jeff W. Lichtman

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University

Center for Brain Science, Harvard University


“The brain is composed of a vast number of neurons, interconnected by an even larger number of tightly tangled processes. The architecture of neuronal circuits underlies the complex functions of the brain, but mapping this circuitry in detail is a formidable challenge,” explains Jean Livet, one of the scientists who collaborated on Brainbow. “Here we use a genetic strategy, based on DNA recombination, to fill nerve cells of transgenic mice with fluorescent proteins of distinct colors, such that their anatomy becomes visible. In this strategy, called Brainbow, each neuron independently chooses a random combination of three fluorescent proteins (cyan, yellow, and red). Multiple color mixtures are created by combining these three fluorescent proteins at various levels, which allows one to distinguish neighboring neurons and follow their processes by virtue of their particular hue. Multiple neurons composing a circuit can be visualized and reconstructed in the same portion of the brain, opening the way for a better understanding of brain function, development, and pathology.”


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Taken on April 25, 2008