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We have a new ally for understanding Alzheimer’s or epilepsy: this incredible mini microscope at only 2.5 centimeters and four grams

It’s lighter than sugar and won’t lift more than a snail’s shell, but the “miniscope,” a tiny microscope developed at the University of California (UCLA), could help us unravel mysteries about the brain and even Alzheimer’s, epilepsy or autism.

UCLA researchers receive a new grant four million dollars The US’s main medical research agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is worldwide to develop and manufacture new versions of its “miniscope”, which was designed years ago and has been used in more than half a thousand locations from laboratories over the past decade.

Its goal now, the university says, is to design and assemble two new prototypes that will allow scientists, among other advances, to “peek deeper” into the brain.

Goal: to better understand the brain

Professor at UCLA, Dr. “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 moving animals,” says Peyman Golshani.

One of the biggest advantages of the tiny microscope is its size, so small that it fits perfectly in the palm of one hand. The weight of the device is less than four grams and the height is around 2.54 centimeters. It is so small that it can fit and collect on a base plate placed on top of an animal’s head. data on neural activity. The collected material is then sent to a computer via a small cable.

The fact that researchers can use the tool with such a wide level of flexibility allows them to collect data about the functioning of the brain in contexts that open up a world of possibilities, such as when an animal is in the midst of interacting with others. society.

“While previously neural activity could only be observed with much larger and heavier microscopes that needed to be fixed in place, the ‘miniscope’ enables and helps to freely examine brain function in animals to explore their environment. uncovering new insights on social behavior, memory, and neurological diseases,” details UCLA.

Researchers can use it to study neural activity in healthy animals or to analyze how their brains behave in different contexts. Another of its most relevant advantages is that it can be used with mouse models and to explore the origin and treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy or autism.

As with previous releases, the UCLA researchers plan to share the information they collect during their work so other teams can build and operate their own “miniscopes.” models funded by the NIH, higher resolution and field of view more than before and will make it possible to analyze the structure of brain connections.

Cover image | Kate Houston/UCLA Neurology

Source: Xataka

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