Transparent mouse can detect cancerous tumours in the first stages of formation

A transparent mouse is helping scientists detect cancerous tumours in the first stages of formation.


This new scanning method enables researchers to see tissue in detail never achieved before.  


It has been described as having “a wealth of potential” by Cancer Research UK. 


Prof Ali Ertürk of the Helmholtz Munich research centre first discovered how to make a dead mouse transparent back in 2018. 


Initially tested on mice, this new scanning method has been successful in eradicating cancer before it develops and becomes harder to treat. 


Prof Ali Ertürk says: “MRI and PET scans would show you only big tumours. Ours show tumours at the single cell, which they absolutely can’t”.


“Current drugs extend life by a few years and then the cancer comes back. This is because the development process never included eliminating those tiny tumours, which were never visible.”


The dead mice (who also have cancer) are made transparent and then scanned to see how far the cancer has developed/whether a treatment has been successful. 


While making mice see-through isn’t a new breakthrough in medical research, Prof Ali Ertürk has discovered that adding certain chemicals illuminates parts of the mouse to study under a microscope. 


In addition to illuminating cancerous regions, Professor Ertürk’s team has created videos allowing researchers to navigate through the mouse’s nervous system, gut, or lymph system.


Dr Rupal Mistry, research information manager at Cancer Research UK, said:

“This exciting and unique scanning technique has a wealth of potential for building our knowledge of how our bodies work and what goes wrong in diseases like cancer. 


“While researchers will only be able to use the technique to examine the bodies of deceased mice, it could tell us a lot about how cancer develops at the early stages of the disease. Being able to visualise tumours in the context of the entire body will also give researchers a greater understanding of the impact of different drugs and treatment.


“Advances in technology like this are essential to driving progress and will hopefully lead to new ways to detect, treat and prevent cancer.”

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