Tissue clearing and its applications in neuroscience

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2020 Feb;21(2):61-79. doi: 10.1038/s41583-019-0250-1.


State-of-the-art tissue-clearing methods provide subcellular-level optical access to intact tissues from individual organs and even to some entire mammals. When combined with light-sheet microscopy and automated approaches to image analysis, existing tissue-clearing methods can speed up and may reduce the cost of conventional histology by several orders of magnitude. In addition, tissue-clearing chemistry allows whole-organ antibody labelling, which can be applied even to thick human tissues. By combining the most powerful labelling, clearing, imaging and data-analysis tools, scientists are extracting structural and functional cellular and subcellular information on complex mammalian bodies and large human specimens at an accelerated pace. The rapid generation of terabyte-scale imaging data furthermore creates a high demand for efficient computational approaches that tackle challenges in large-scale data analysis and management. In this Review, we discuss how tissue-clearing methods could provide an unbiased, system-level view of mammalian bodies and human specimens and discuss future opportunities for the use of these methods in human neuroscience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Histological Techniques / instrumentation
  • Histological Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Mammals
  • Microscopy / instrumentation
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Nervous System / cytology*
  • Neurosciences