Optical clearing improves the imaging depth and signal-to-noise ratio for digital analysis and three-dimensional projection of the human enteric nervous system.

Neurogastroenterology and Motility : the Official Journal of the European Gastrointestinal Motility Society
Y A LiuS C Tang


Due to the dispersed nature of neurites and fibers, the microtome-based 2-dimensional histology provides only a limited perspective of the enteric nervous system. To visualize the enteric plexus, we applied optical clearing to avoid scattering in the human ileum to facilitate photon penetration for 3-dimensional (3-D) microscopy of the neural tissue. Human ileal specimens were derived by trimming the donor bowel due to its excess length during the clinical trial of small intestinal transplantation. The pan-neuronal marker PGP9.5 was used as the immunostaining target to reveal the enteric plexuses. The labeled tissues were immersed in the optical-clearing solution prior to deep-tissue confocal microscopy. The serial sections were digitally analyzed and processed by reconstruction algorithms for 3-D visualization. Optical clearing of the ileal specimen led to less fluorescence signal decay along the focal path in the tissue and a higher signal-to-noise ratio of the confocal micrographs in comparison with the untreated saline control. Taking advantage of the high signal-to-noise ratio images, we applied software-based signal analysis to identify the presence of the nerve fibers and quantify the signal peaks. The image stacks deriv...Continue Reading


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