What just happened? A vertebrate's body consists of intricate connections between organs and various vessel systems. To better highlight and study these connections, German scientists have developed a new 3D mapping technique they named wildDISCO.

Conceived by scientists at the Helmholtz Munich research institute, wildDISCO is an evolution of a previously created imaging technique that can provide clear images of a mouse body's inner structures. It's a "game changing" solution, experts say, that could enable scientists to develop more effective drugs or better understand how cancer spread.

wildDISCO's end game is to make tissue samples or isolated organs transparent so that the cells inside can be seen. The new method can make an entire mouse body transparent, providing data for stunning 3D visualizations with unprecedented microscopic details.

The Helmholtz Munich scientists developed wildDISCO by trying synthetic antibodies first, and then standard, bigger antibodies already available commercially. By treating a mouse corpse for two weeks with a chemical compound called beta-cyclodextrin, the scientists discovered, cholesterol in cells' membrane is completely dissolved and the whole organism turns into a "spongelike" structure with all its tissues, vessels and organs still intact.

The researchers then used other standard antibodies, such as immunoglobulin G, to penetrate deeply into the mouse tissues to mark nervous cells, the vascular system, the immune system and almost everything else. The newly collected data was used to build stunning 3D visualizations, which can then be used to make videos or even develop an interactive, VR-based exploration experience.

Thanks to wildDISCO's novel capabilities, researchers can literally "fly" within the smallest tissues and vessels contained in a mouse's body, creating new opportunities for studying the interconnected physiological systems of a vertebrate's sample. This is crucial, the scientists say, to better understand how diseases affect such a complex physiology going beyond the usual limitations of small tissue samples.

Scientists not involved in the study welcomed wildDISCO as an "exciting" new research frontier, highlighting how the 3D visualizations work as a great showcase for VR-base navigation through large 3D image data sets.

Meanwhile, the German experts are still working to improve the wildDISCO technique to "reach its full potential." Right now, they are trying to find a way to use three and four marking antibodies at the same time.