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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Seeing inside a living brain

by Manny Morone
November 21, 2019


These glowing pathways are the blood vessels inside a living mouse’s brain, as seen from above. Hongjie Dai’s lab at Stanford University managed to get this view into a rodent’s mind by designing a multilayered, multi-element nanoparticle system that “glows” under infrared light. These nanoparticles absorb infrared light—which can penetrate through the mouse’s skin and skull into its brain—and then give off lower-energy infrared light that escapes the skull and can be isolated to make videos like this one. The nanoparticles that allow this system to work have a core containing mostly ytterbium and a little bit of cerium, erbium, and zinc. The researchers then added a shell of an ytterbium fluoride, and lastly they added a mesh of four polymer layers, the latter of which keeps the nanoparticles from clumping up inside the mouse’s bloodstream.

Credit: Hongjie Dai group.

Read the paper here: Nat. Biotechnol. 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41587-019-0262-4

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