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Imaging Technique Visualizes Gene Expression in Brains of Live Mice in Real Time

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By genetically modifying a mouse so that it produced mRNA labeled with green fluorescent proteins, the researchers were able to see when and where the mouse’s brain generated Arc mRNA.

Credit: Hye Yoon Park/University of Minnesota Twin Cities

An international team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities' Hye Yoon Park has created a method for visualizing mRNA molecules in the brains of live mice in real time.

The approach involved genetic engineering, two-photon excitation microscopy, and optimized image processing software.

The researchers genetically engineered a mouse to produce mRNA labeled with green fluorescent proteins to determine when and where its brain expressed the Arc mRNA molecule.

They conducted two experiments in which they were able to monitor the neurons' activity as the mouse formed and stored memories over a month.

The team observed that different groups of neurons fired each day to trigger a memory; they were able to locate a group of neurons that consistently generated the Arc mRNA in the retrosplenial cortex, where long-term memory storage is thought to reside.

From University of Minnesota College of Science & Engineering
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