Scalable tissue labeling and clearing of intact human organs

Nat Protoc. 2022 Oct;17(10):2188-2215. doi: 10.1038/s41596-022-00712-8. Epub 2022 Jul 20.


Advances in tissue labeling and clearing methods include improvement of tissue transparency, better preservation of fluorescence signal, compatibility with immunostaining and large sample volumes. However, as existing methods share the common limitation that they can only be applied to human tissue slices, rendering intact human organs transparent remains a challenge. Here, we describe experimental details of the small-micelle-mediated human organ efficient clearing and labeling (SHANEL) pipeline, which can be applied for cellular mapping of intact human organs. We have successfully cleared multiple human organs, including kidney, pancreas, heart, lung, spleen and brain, as well as hard tissue like skull. We also describe an advanced volumetric imaging system using a commercial light-sheet fluorescence microscope that can accommodate most human organs and a pipeline for whole-organ imaging and visualization. The complete experimental process of labeling and clearing whole human organs takes months and the analysis process takes several weeks, depending on the organ types and sizes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain*
  • Fluorescence
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Kidney
  • Micelles*
  • Pancreas


  • Micelles