Research ArticleMICROSCOPY

3D imaging of optically cleared tissue using a simplified CLARITY method and on-chip microscopy

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Science Advances  11 Aug 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 8, e1700553
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700553

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High-throughput sectioning and optical imaging of tissue samples using traditional immunohistochemical techniques can be costly and inaccessible in resource-limited areas. We demonstrate three-dimensional (3D) imaging and phenotyping in optically transparent tissue using lens-free holographic on-chip microscopy as a low-cost, simple, and high-throughput alternative to conventional approaches. The tissue sample is passively cleared using a simplified CLARITY method and stained using 3,3′-diaminobenzidine to target cells of interest, enabling bright-field optical imaging and 3D sectioning of thick samples. The lens-free computational microscope uses pixel super-resolution and multi-height phase recovery algorithms to digitally refocus throughout the cleared tissue and obtain a 3D stack of complex-valued images of the sample, containing both phase and amplitude information. We optimized the tissue-clearing and imaging system by finding the optimal illumination wavelength, tissue thickness, sample preparation parameters, and the number of heights of the lens-free image acquisition and implemented a sparsity-based denoising algorithm to maximize the imaging volume and minimize the amount of the acquired data while also preserving the contrast-to-noise ratio of the reconstructed images. As a proof of concept, we achieved 3D imaging of neurons in a 200-μm-thick cleared mouse brain tissue over a wide field of view of 20.5 mm2. The lens-free microscope also achieved more than an order-of-magnitude reduction in raw data compared to a conventional scanning optical microscope imaging the same sample volume. Being low cost, simple, high-throughput, and data-efficient, we believe that this CLARITY-enabled computational tissue imaging technique could find numerous applications in biomedical diagnosis and research in low-resource settings.

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