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Cutting edge imaging technology provides new insights into schizophrenia

by Robin Lasky, Contributing Reporter | March 01, 2021

Until recently, technological limitations have prevented a more in-depth analysis of the microscopic differences of the brain’s actual physical tissue. Prior studies that have attempted to construct 3D mapping of brain tissue such as neurons and blood vessels, which measure in nanometers, have been performed by imaging a series of sections taken of the cellular structure of tissue using electron microscopy, and then digitally reconstructing a comprehensive 3D map of the inside of the tissue. However, since soft tissue is deformed by the sectioning process, such mapping relies on technicians being able to artificially account for and correct for this damage in the digital reconstruction.

The new approach utilized by Mizutani’s team uses synchrotron radiation nanotomography to obtain more accurate imaging of the inside of cellular material with a method that does not require sectioning. A synchrotron is a type of particle accelerator that moves electrons at a speed sufficient to produce the energy wavelength to produce X-rays, and then with the use of magnetic fields, can manipulate the direction of the X-ray beams around the interior of an object.

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With the cooperation of Advanced Photon Source and the U.S. Department of Energy, the researchers were able to perform nanotomography using Fresnel zone plate optics to produce 3D Cartesian coordinate models of the microscopic cellular structures.

"There are only a few places in the world where you can do this research,” explained Mizutani. “Without 3D analysis of brain tissues this work would not be possible."

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