Admittedly, molecular biology reads somewhat like the Post-Modern Prometheus, complete with green glowing rabbits and the like. The power to manipulate genetics has been harnessed in many ways in the last couple of decades to give tremendous insight into the complex world of biology. Recently, the Lichtman lab at Harvard University published their results regarding yet another new technology that may just live up to the promise.
The method harnesses a well known Cre/lox strategy of genetic recombination with a clever alteration, which enables the system to naturally create a large variety of permutations that are manifested as distinct fluorescent colors. Thus each cell will express its own color and can be viewed much more distinctly in the absolute mess of cells that constitutes this organ.
Where modern cellular imaging methods, such as fluorescence or electron microscopy, and “ancient” (but still employed) techniques of Golgi silver staining and Nissl staining are often plagued by either problems of sparseness or completeness in their ability to help visualize neurons, by the very nature of this technique, cells can be followed and more or less uniquely identified.
The article can be found in the journal Nature.