Scientists Genetically-Engineered A Fully Transparent Squid To Look Inside Its Brain

Scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass used genetic engineering to create a fully transparent squid, a breakthrough that could have serious implications for the entire field of biology.

A new report on NPR reveals how, using CRISPR technology, scientists transformed a tiny squid into a truly albino creature so transparent, they can see how their brain and hearts are working.

“We know we put it in this aquarium, but they might look for a half hour before they can actually see it. They’re that transparent,” said Joshua Rosenthal, a senior scientist in the laboratory.

The squid they used CRISPR on is a tiny creature, no bigger than a thumb – a hummingbird bobtail squid found in Indonesia, China and Japan.

They picked this particular creature because it’s tiny and breeds a lot even in laboratory conditions. 

In the picture below you can see just how small a baby hummingbird bobtail squid is – now imagine trying to spot one that’s also see-through!

hummingbird bobtail squid baby near a paperclip by Tim BriggsMBL at Cephlapod Program

Hummingbird bobtail squid baby near a paperclip by Tim Briggs – MBL Cephlapod Program

“Cephalopods are remarkable among invertebrates for their cognitive abilities, adaptive camouflage, novel structures, and propensity for recoding proteins through RNA editing. Due to the lack of genetically tractable cephalopod models, however, the mechanisms underlying these innovations are poorly understood,” they write in their study, which you can find here

Once they managed to turn the squid transparent, they then inserted fluorescent dye into its brain. This way, they could see exactly how the creature views the world and processes information, in real time, without harming it. 

Needless to say, this process will prove invaluable in the field of neuroscience.

Also read: CRISPR Used to Create An Antidote for Box Jellyfish Venom

Photo by Nick Hobgood, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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