Whole-body imaging with single-cell resolution by tissue decolorization

Cell. 2014 Nov 6;159(4):911-24. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.10.034.


The development of whole-body imaging at single-cell resolution enables system-level approaches to studying cellular circuits in organisms. Previous clearing methods focused on homogenizing mismatched refractive indices of individual tissues, enabling reductions in opacity but falling short of achieving transparency. Here, we show that an aminoalcohol decolorizes blood by efficiently eluting the heme chromophore from hemoglobin. Direct transcardial perfusion of an aminoalcohol-containing cocktail that we previously termed CUBIC coupled with a 10 day to 2 week clearing protocol decolorized and rendered nearly transparent almost all organs of adult mice as well as the entire body of infant and adult mice. This CUBIC-perfusion protocol enables rapid whole-body and whole-organ imaging at single-cell resolution by using light-sheet fluorescent microscopy. The CUBIC protocol is also applicable to 3D pathology, anatomy, and immunohistochemistry of various organs. These results suggest that whole-body imaging of colorless tissues at high resolution will contribute to organism-level systems biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Alcohols / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus / pathology
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Islets of Langerhans / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*
  • Whole Body Imaging / methods*


  • Amino Alcohols