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Biotech Science Idle

Chemical Cocktail Turns Mice Clear 145

sciencehabit writes "Researchers have serendipitously discovered that a mixture of urea, glycerol, and soap makes membranes transparent. When they tried the mixture on a developing mouse fetus, they found that it removed all of the pigment from the cells, rendering the fetus completely transparent. The technique allowed scientists to see fluorescent neurons buried several millimeters in the brain."
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Chemical Cocktail Turns Mice Clear

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  • wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @07:34PM (#37270304)
    I already see the next requirement from TSA..
  • by gstrickler ( 920733 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @07:38PM (#37270344)
    Steinbeck's "Of Invisible Mice and Men".
    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @08:03PM (#37270518)
      They used extremely common lab materials and seem to have told everyone the recipe: no patent was sought here. If they we going to try to sell it, they'd announce they had a secret, proprietary formula that could make your embryos turn clear. RIKEN, the institute that made the discovery, is not greedy. I've gotten DNA constructs from them before, they provided them free of charge, no contact making us promise to not share it, etc. If I could speak Japanese and if they'd hire me, I'd love to work there.
      • Nihongo ga benkyoushimasu. I need job.

      • by Zouden ( 232738 )

        Unfortunately, the recipe itself is behind a paywall. Any chance of posting it here?

        • by Niedi ( 1335165 )
          Kerosene, propylene glycol, artificial sweeteners, sulphuric acid, rum, acetone, red dye no2, Scumm, axle grease, battery acid and/or pepperoni.

          No, actually it's even easier...
          4 M urea, 10% (wt/vol) glycerol and 0.1% (wt/vol) Triton X-100
          Which, seriously now, is really stuff you'll find in pretty much any biological lab.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sorry mate, but anything involved in being clear [] requires a payment to your local Scientology chapter. We have effective ways of enforcing our intellectual property.

      Why do you think the music and movie industries can get politicians to accept continuous copyright extensions? That's because of the influence of Scientology. Just ask Tom Cruise.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by tepples ( 727027 )
        Dianetics, the auditing process by which one becomes "clear" of "engrams" (memories of past painful incidents), is just a fancy name for the PTSD treatment called abreaction therapy [] by psychologists. The obsession with "Psychlos" in Scientology is just Hubbard's attempt to hide this connection.
    • by Idbar ( 1034346 )
      Ever wonder why he splashes everyone, but nothing else seemed to become invisible. I guess it only acts on cells! Good finding.
    • Those materials were available in the 19th century. I wonder if anyone previously discovered this []?

  • by ElrondHubbard ( 13672 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @07:42PM (#37270378)
    That's not the worst thing science has ever done to a mouse: []

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      You know, they do euthanize the mice before they homogenize them, right? Scientists are not wantonly cruel.

      • by MikeUW ( 999162 )

        In the case of lab rats, 'euthanize' is usually just a euphemism for killing them by breaking their necks (having known someone who had this job in a lab once). I don't think that's the method of choice for humans whenever someone wants to be euthanized to end their own suffering. As AC says, the blender is probably less pain for the mouse.

        I wonder though, since only the abstract of the TFA is publicly accessible, how long the embryos actually survived after being given this chemical cocktail.

    • Why would need an unaerated homogenated mouse?

      • Re:Not the worst (Score:4, Informative)

        by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @09:20PM (#37271092) Journal

        When you "Blend" a mouse, you are typically doing some kind of chemical or cellular assay (depending on the level of blending you may be looking at whole cells, but more than likely you're looking at chemistry, genetic material or sub cellular organelles.) Making a Frappe' of Mr. Muscus, really makes doing other testing difficult to impossible and adding large amounts of oxygen to disrupted tissues damages delicate cellular chemistry, ultimately ruining your research. So when you make mouse soup, it should as much as possible be sans frothy head.

      • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

        True, you definitely want the aeration for a proper mouse mousse.

    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      That's still more humane than what my pet cat does to any mouse it manages to catch.
      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
        ... and that's a lot more humane than what I did to my neighbors cat after what my neighbor's cat did to my guinea pig.
  • Is it me or is this the literal idea of the original HG Wells Invisible Man?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, it's from his earlier rejected manuscript, the "The Invisible Dead Man". Interesting premise but not a lot of action in that one.

    • No, it was "The Invisible Mouse" by Edmund Wells.

    • I agree; I just read the original recently. Of course the invisible man was an albino, so he was already pigmentless (or so the story goes) except for blood etc. These pigments he somehow replaced. A lot of the scientific explanation has to do with changing the refractive indices of his tissues to make them match those of air though. It seems the mouse still has some problems with refraction.

  • Phew! For a moment there, when they said "Chemical Cocktail Turns Mice Clear" I thought they meant clear as in e-meter/thetan/Scientology clear.
  • If the squirrels get a hold of this, there will be no stopping their agents now.

    Only a matter of time.

  • Researchers serendipitously discovered that a mixture of urea, glycerol, and soap

    I'm guessing this discovery was the result of someone taking a shower after some kind of urine-related lab prank...

  • I seem to recall some prior art in this subject.
  • by Lord_of_the_nerf ( 895604 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @08:05PM (#37270530)

    Eaten alive by invisible rats.

    Science is about making horrible dreams a reality.

  • Kevin Bacon did it 11 years ago. To a gorilla. And then himself.

  • It's people!

  • First stop, the girls' shower room for a "deposit", second stop, the bank for a "withdraw."

  • by devphaeton ( 695736 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @08:49PM (#37270850)

    I know a few chemical cocktails that can make people THINK they're invisible. And bulletproof.

  • Let me get this straight. It is lethal to living beings but makes them completely "clear".

    I do believe this would solve a number of issues with Scientology. Adherents could become a "Clear" and achieve oneness with the great L. Ron all at once!

    Xenu is quaking in his boots at the though.

  • Scientist #1: We're having problems observing these neurons! Blasted plain optics!

    Scientist #2: If only there were some way to make the mouse embryo transparent!

    Bear Grylls: Soak it in piss! *gulp*

  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @09:22PM (#37271114) Journal

    Makes one wonder if there is a less toxic way to attain the same effect? Definitely an ice breaker at parties! On the flip side, adding this concoction to embalming fluid would almost certainly make for exciting funerals!!!

  • Turning mice clear isn't really that impressive.

    All it takes is a four or five vodkas with cranberry juice to make everything unclear.

    And the cranberry juice is optional, unless you happen to suffer from a mild urinary tract infection, in which case I highly recommend it.

  • ... the three-dimensional protrusion of the pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent race of beings that we perceive as mice?

    And what wrath have these foolhardy researchers brought upon this planet should these beings become unhappy with their new appearance?

    • True. It's also done to dead mice because the process is strong enough that it would kill living mice. Plus it was only done on fetuses which are small enough that the transparency is useful.

    • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

      Yeah, not even close. The point here is the fetus is still alive and developing, so they can watch individual fluorescent-stained neurons grow. Pretty cool, really.

      • Whoa, wait...what???

        The article says it's not being used on a living animal.

        Hmmm. Perhaps the difference here, is that the old method for clearing and staining didn't highlight the neurons, whereas this one did?

        • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

          Whoops, I totally missed the last sentence for some reason and read "developing mice" as still developing. My mistake!

          I think you're right, the key was that it didn't affect the fluorescent dye. Still useful, but not earthshattering.

  • But can they do this with aluminum??

  • Invisible pr0n is no fun... well, at least not for most people.

  • - That we turn ourselves invisible and take over the world?

  • I understand the value of experimenting on mice and other animals. But that's the benefit, that gets weighed against the cost.

    Where is the limit to what we can do to an animal before it is unacceptably cruel? Against which no actual benefit can justify the cruelty? How does it feel to be as mutated as these transparent mice would be if they survived gestation? If they survive past the point where there are functioning nerve networks to feel how it is, how cruel is that?

    • Are you volunteering to replace the test animals? Or are you going to give up all medical treatment because of the history of animal testing?
      • No. Are you volunteering to never agree with anything because you don't agree with me in this specific instance? Of course not. The question is whether there is a limit of cruelty that's not worth what we get from the research that requires the cruelty.

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )


          More appropriately: Your question make no sense and show a lack of understanding about science. How do we know the outcome of an experiment? How can we say it wasn't worth any benefit without doing the experiment?

          Any more questions?

          • My question makes no sense because it's your response applied to your post. So here are some less complex ones for you:

            Yes. Have you ever heard of ethics []? They're an organized way to know whether an action's benefits might not be worth the cost, even without doing the action and incurring the cost.

            Also: what alternative science are you trying to use instead of the scientific method []? Experiments aren't totally unpredictable invocations. There are almost always reliable expectations of the range of outcomes o

    • by daid303 ( 843777 )

      As pointed out by Tim C, almost anything we do with mice is less cruel then what a cat does do a mouse when it catches it.

    • Notice they didnt do this on a living embryo.

      Also anything that sells for $1.49 each as live snake food at a pet store apparently does not rate too highly on the
      "concern about cruelty" scale. If the process caused them pain then yes it would be too cruel to use but
      simply turning them transparent is probably not the worst thing that would happen to a lab mouse.

      How does it feel to be a transparent animal? Ask a jellyfish. As long as they dont have to live
      with other regular mice I dont see they would notice th

      • It wasn't really clear to me from the article (or the abstract of the paper it reported) whether the embryo was dead before they removed the pigment, or if removing the pigment killed it. If it was alive, the feeling of having all pigments removed would probably be one of the worst feelings to happen to a living animal, though I'm sure we could always do worse.

        There's a difference between the process of not generating pigments, determined by billions of years of one's own evolved DNA, and a bleaching in a l

  • everybody's copying Apple, this time with translucent mice.

  • Oh, you meant see-through. Here I thought you meant that they found a way to make mice Clear (tm) without paying Scientology tens of thousands of dollars....


  • We have pigment for a reason, presumably, so a fully developed animal would not survive direct sunlight?

    Of course, a baby mouse would have fur, as well. Still, probably a really messed up looking mouse.

  • Micro$oft says they have finally found a way to render mouse pointers visible, to be implemented in time for the release of Windows 9.
  • I thought they'd figured out a way to turn mice into Scientologists. As if mice weren't annoying enough as it is.

  • ...a mixture of urea, glycerol, and soap...

    How did they find this formula? Did one of the researchers piss in a bottle of liquid soap?

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10