While a lot of us might ask “why,” scientists often say “why not?” In this case, scientists at the RIKEN institute (in collaboration with the University of Tokyo and the Japan Science and Technology Agency) in Japan found a way to make mice transparent.
They look like this:
So by “transparent” they mean see-though, not invisible. Still, it is an interesting achievement.
Unfortunately, the process they used for making a mouse completely see-through only works on dead mice. And, when done on a live mouse, kills it in the process. They pump a saline solution through the mouse’s heart, remove all the blood, introduce a reagent (to separate the haem from the haemoglobin in the dead mouse’s organs), skin the mouse, and soak it in a reagent for two weeks.
It’s a long and complicated process but, in the end, the mouse is almost completely transparent. This new method has scientific relevance because it allows scientists to examine the entire body (and each individual organ), without cutting into the specimen.
I’m sure scientists can find other practical uses from this.
Hiroki Ueda, the scientist in charge of the research team, hopes that this method “could be used to study how embryos develop or how cancer and autoimmune diseases develop at the cellular level.” With this method, scientists are able to get a 3D image of complex organs in their ‘natural habitat,’ without cutting into the body. There is also hope that this can lead to a deeper understanding – as scientists are able to view the bodies of complex organisms at a single-cell resolution.
So while total invisibility and transparency (at least for living things) is still only witnessed in imaginative movies and books, this is still an interesting step in the right direction.