Contract Research Services

Our Mission

Founded by CLARITY (Nature, 2013), SWITCH (Cell, 2015), and SHIELD (Nature Biotechnology, 2019) inventors from MIT and located in Cambridge, MA, LifeCanvas Technologies develops and offers as services a full suite of research tools for tissue clearing, labeling, and volumetric imaging of intact organs such as the brain. We are excited to show the biomedical research community the power of our whole-sample analysis methods, which provide greater value and richer information content versus traditional thin-section techniques, all at a competitive price.

Full Service Pipeline

Choose LifeCanvas’s sample-to-dataset tissue processing services to get more insight into your research questions than ever before! Our comprehensive pipeline covers tissue preservation, delipidation, immunolabeling, imaging, and analysis of whole organs, completely replacing the laborious and error-prone process of passive, thin-section histology. Learn more about our approaches below.

Delipidating tissue to enable intact-sample labeling and imaging involves exposing samples to harsh treatments like high temperatures and pH changes. If left unchecked, this can cause damage to proteins and overall tissue structure, leading to incomplete or inaccurate image datasets. Therefore, to preserve the sample’s endogenous fluorescence and antigenicity along with tissue architecture, we use a novel tissue preservation technique called SHIELD that forms intramolecular bonds using polyfunctional, flexible epoxides to stabilize tissue architecture.

After SHIELD preservation, the tissue can be delipidated and either refractive index (RI)-matched for imaging or subjected to active immunohistochemical labeling. Notably, SHIELD-preserved tissues are well-suited for antibody multiplexing, i.e., iterative staining and de-staining, without loss of tissue antigenicity, to build up a rich picture of protein expression over repeated rounds of imaging.

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Clearing progression whole mouse brainsEliminating membrane lipids is crucial to enabling better light penetration for imaging and increasing tissue permeability for active transport of molecular probes deep into intact tissue. Our active clearing device, SmartClear II Pro, employs a patent-pending stochastic electrotransport mechanism to foster rapid delivery of exogenous molecules such as the detergent SDS into tissues, facilitating uniform removal of light-scattering membrane lipids. Thanks to the application of a rotational electric field which minimizes the displacement of structural biomolecules, the tissue is cleared without any damage or deformation.

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PV staining in rat coronal sliceAttempting to passively immunolabel samples that are a few millimeters to one centimeter thick usually takes many weeks and very high concentrations of expensive antibodies, without any guarantee that staining will extend to the sample’s innermost structures.

Our SmartLabel device combines two technologies – stochastic electrotransport and SWITCH – and allows us to achieve whole-organ antibody staining that is uniform from surface to core. While stochastic electrotransport provides for efficient distribution of antibodies into the organ, SWITCH controls reaction kinetics to ensure that antibody binding isn’t activated until reagent concentration has been homogenized throughout the sample. The result is strikingly uniform labeling that enables you to visualize proteins deep within the organ and study the fine-scale topography of the cells they identify.

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Acquiring high resolution, three-dimensional volumetric image data of whole organs using confocal or two-photon microscopy is a time-consuming and expensive process, as these slow line-scanning techniques are best suited to small, localized regions of interest. Light-sheet microscopy overcomes this speed limitation by selectively illuminating distinct focal planes sequentially from the sides of the tissue sample to achieve optical sectioning. LifeCanvas’s own light-sheet microscope, SmartSPIM, offers superior imaging speed and uniform axial resolution across the entire sample, generating datasets with pixels sized 1.8 µm/px in XY and with 4 µm Z-steps (3.6x, 0.2 NA objective; ~4.5 µm tall PSF). With rapid 4-color acquisition (488, 561, 642, & 785 laser lines) of your embedded samples, we can precisely overlay multiplexed immunofluorescence signals and fluorescent protein expression patterns alike.

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Ultimately, some level of quantitative data analysis may be necessary to obtain true biological insights. However, analysis of fully intact, whole organ datasets requires advanced algorithms to align three-dimensional image volumes to standardized organ atlases (such as the Allen Brain Atlas), followed by object quantification (such as fluorescence intensity quantification or cell counts) within aligned and segmented regions. LifeCanvas Technologies is pioneering these and other quantitative data analysis measures for 3D volumetric datasets.

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Benefits of our Technology

LifeCanvas’s full-service pipeline replaces embedding, destructive sectioning, staining, and serial imaging of thin tissue slices with a streamlined approach using intact organ samples that offers greater flexibility and requires less hands-on time. Take advantage of our technology and methods to:

•  Reduce time and resources needed to process large tissue samples at high throughput.

•  Avoid lost information from destructive sectioning or alignment errors.

•  View anatomical features at high resolution in multiple planes.

•  Visualize complete, whole-organ datasets that provide greater context for analysis and novel discoveries, avoiding spotlight and confirmation biases.

•  Align datasets to finely detailed reference atlases, allowing for accurate and reproducible quantitative analysis.

To learn more about the advantages of whole-sample analysis, please read our blog post “Why use intact samples for your research?”

We are now happy to offer the opportunity to evaluate our services FREE of charge* to eligible customers.

*Free offer limited to certain services and applications.

Endogenous Thy1-driven YFP expression visualized throughout an entire adult mouse brain.

Cleared with SmartClear II Pro and imaged with SmartSPIM. Sample courtesy of G. Allan Johnson, Duke Center for In Vivo Microscopy.

Applications

Gain valuable new insights into your data with advanced tissue clearing, imaging, and analysis platforms

Intact tissue clearing combined with whole sample imaging and analysis can provide insights into previously inaccessible levels of biological detail and understanding.

LifeCanvas Technologies offers the tools and technologies to enable access to these insights:

SmartClear II Pro – Tissue clearing instrument capable of processing up to four adult mouse brains or eight hemispheres simultaneously, fully clearing in 3-5 days.

SmartLabel – Advanced immunostaining device, capable of uniformly labeling fully intact, several millimeter-thick tissues with multiple probes in under 24 hours.

SmartSPIM – Light sheet microscope optimized for resolution, speed, and flexibility for imaging large samples. High resolution, single channel imaging of an intact adult mouse brain can be achieved in 60 minutes or less.

Advanced 3D image analysis – Full service options including mouse brain atlas alignment, regional segmentation, fluorescence intensity measurements, and cell counting.

Rapid molecular phenotyping of intact mouse brain hemispheres

Transforming research of psychiatric diseases and developmental disorders

Growing evidence suggests that certain psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and developmental disorders such as autism may involve subtle changes in specific neuronal cell-types. GABAergic interneurons that express the calcium-binding protein parvalbumin (PV) are one such cell-type, with PV-cells comprising about ~50% of all GABAergic interneurons and therefore being ~1 out of every 10 neurons in the brain. How does the number and distribution of PV-cells throughout the brains of mouse models of these disorders differ as a function of disease state? To address this question in the most unbiased manner, eFLASH whole hemisphere or whole brain labeling can be performed using LifeCanvas Technologies’ SmartLabel rapid immunohistochemistry device. Following SHIELD tissue preservation and optical clearing via delipidation in SmartClear II Pro, this intact mouse brain hemisphere was immunolabeled in only ~24 hours using just 20 µg of anti-PV antibody.

By refractive index matching the hemisphere and then imaging it in just ~30 minutes using LifeCanvas’s SmartSPIM light-sheet microscope, single-cell resolution data of the entire sample is acquired in one contiguous image volume, enabling holistic analysis of the tissue. Compared to cutting tissue into hundreds of thin sections and then imaging only those discrete regions of interest (ROIs) thought important to interrogate a specific hypothesis, unbiased study of the whole organ helps counteract spotlight biases and creates fertile ground where novel and unexpected discoveries can take place. By co-staining for additional cell-type markers and then analyzing the image data by aligning it to a reference atlas and quantifying number of PV-positive cells per brain region with automated cell-detection algorithms, a powerful pipeline to molecularly phenotype tissues can be created. With this approach, new insight into mouse models of these disorders could be obtained by investigating potential changes in the density and laminar & regional patterning of these cells, as well as changes in their co-expression of markers of neuronal activation (e.g., immediate early genes) or cell health (e.g., oxidative stress markers). Importantly, by performing these analyses and assessing the effects of candidate pharmacological interventions aimed at treating these conditions on a brain-wide basis, a much more complete picture than can be obtained from using only thin sections of tissue can be considered.

Single-cell level imaging of 2-cm long segments of rodent spinal cord

Perhaps more than any other area of the nervous system, applying tissue clearing and large format imaging techniques to the spinal cord offers researchers an unparalleled view into both its fine-scale cellular organization and broader topography. At over 4 cm long, more than 400 transverse histological sections, each 50 µm thick, would need to be cut to visualize just the proximal half of a mouse’s spinal cord. With a width of only ~2-3 mm these sections take skill to collect, handle, orient, and mount properly, with lost sections meaning lost information and an incomplete picture come imaging time. Upon acquisition of a complete set of whole-section images, registering them to one another to digitally reconstruct even a short length of the spinal cord can present a sizable challenge, with tracing of blood vessels, neuronal axons, and other radially-aligned structures of interest being even more difficult.

Enter modern tissue clearing, the approach of electrophoretically removing samples’ lipid-filled, light-scattering cell membranes and then rendering them optically transparent via incubation in aqueous solutions that raise and homogenize their refractive index. These cleared samples, such as the one provided by Prof. Helen Lai of UT Southwestern that is shown in the video, can then be imaged intact and without the need for sectioning, mounting, serial imaging, and registration. Thanks to an initial preservation step in which the sample was equilibrated in an epoxy-containing solution called SHIELD and then chemically cured to provide an extra layer of intermolecular crosslinking, fluorescence of the sample’s tdTomato molecules remained robust even after clearing. The bird’s-eye view that intact-sample approaches provide enable researchers to examine morphology without interruption, more easily detect the distribution & periodicity of rare cell-types and measure these properties accurately, and count & quantify each cell reliably as there is no ambiguity arising from cell bodies split across sections. Further, with LifeCanvas’s own SmartSPIM light-sheet microscope entire samples can be imaged rapidly, making it practical to avoid sampling-based stereological analysis methods that are tedious to employ and that have limitations in their applicability and interpretability.