30 August 2014
Changes to blood circulation in the brain can be a symptom of migraine, a stroke or even Alzheimer’s but can’t easily be seen with X-rays or magnetic resonance scanning. Sharper and more detailed 3D images – and even video sequences – can be obtained by scanning with near infrared light, although a major drawback is that only a few millimetres of surface tissue can be penetrated. To get around this problem, scientists injected a mouse with carbon nanotubes, which fluoresce strongly in near infrared light, before scanning its brain. This experiment produced high quality images of blood vessels near the surface of the brain, like the one shown here, without the need to remove part of the animal’s skull. The technique will aid research on animals into brain diseases and could in theory be used for diagnosis in humans, although proof would be required that the procedure is safe.
Written by Mick Warwicker