It weighs less than candy and lifts no more than a snail shell, but the “miniscope”, a tiny microscope developed at the University of California (UCLA), can help us unravel mysteries about the brain or even Alzheimer’s, epilepsy or autism.
UCLA researchers have just received a grant from four million dollars of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the main US medical research agency, to refine and manufacture new versions of its “miniscope”, designed years ago and which over the last decade has already been used in more than half a thousand from laboratories around the world.
Now his goal is to design and assemble two new prototypes that, the university specifies, among other advances will allow scientists to “peek much more deeply” into the brain.
Objective: better understand the brain
“These are important tools that can be transformative for any neuroscientific question that requires looking at the activity of large populations of brain cells in freely behaving animals,” says Dr. Peyman Golshani, a professor at UCLA.
One of the great advantages of the tiny microscope is its size, so small that it fits perfectly in the palm of one hand. The device weighs less than four grams and its height is around 2.54 centimeters. It is so small that it can fit into a base plate implanted in the top of an animal’s head and collect data on their neural activity. The material collected is in.
Researchers can use it to study neural activity in healthy animals or analyze how their brains behave in different contexts. Another of its most relevant advantages is that it can be used with mouse models and delve into the origin and treatment of neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy or autism.
As with previous versions, the UCLA researchers plan to share the information they collect during their work so that other teams can build and operate their own “miniscopes.” NIH-funded models will provide higher resolution and field of view than its predecessors and will make it possible to analyze the structure of brain connections.