Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

posted by takyon on Sunday August 23 2015, @04:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the bright-idea dept.

Optogenetics is a marvel of our age, enabling neuroscientists to turn brain cells on and off with pulses of light. But until now there's been an obvious difficulty: How do you deliver that light to brain cells that are tucked inside an animal's skull?

Today we get the best answer yet, from the Stanford lab of Ada Poon. She and her colleagues have invented a tiny, wireless LED device that can be fully implanted beneath the skin of a mouse. The device lets researchers turn on the light and stimulate neurons when the mouse is scampering around, behaving more or less normally. This system, described today in the journal Nature Methods, seems a big improvement over previous technology, which used wires or bulky head-mounted devices to activate the light switch.

Here's a quick optogenetics primer, in case you need it. The technique makes use of neurons that have been genetically altered to respond to light, often with the introduction of genes from a strain of green algae. Researchers can control which part of a mouse brain contains these light-sensitive neurons, and they can then study the function of that brain region by activating the neurons—essentially turning them on and off—while watching the animal's behavior. Using this method, scientists can learn about basic brain anatomy or study dysfunctions seen in human diseases.

Wirelessly powered, fully internal optogenetics for brain, spinal and peripheral circuits in mice [abstract]


Original Submission

Related Stories

New Tool for Optogenetics: Photocleavable Proteins 3 comments [+]

Researchers have created a protein that breaks into two pieces when exposed to light:

Researchers at the University of Alberta have developed a new method of controlling biology at the cellular level using light. The tool -- called a photocleavable protein -- breaks into two pieces when exposed to light, allowing scientists to study and manipulate activity inside cells in new and different ways.

First, scientists use the photocleavable protein to link cellular proteins to inhibitors, preventing the cellular proteins from performing their usual function. This process is known as caging. "By shining light into the cell, we can cause the photocleavable protein to break, removing the inhibitor and uncaging the protein within the cell," said lead author Robert Campbell, professor in the Department of Chemistry. Once the protein is uncaged, it can start to perform its normal function inside the cell. The tool is relatively easy to use and widely applicable for other research that involves controlling processes inside a cell.

Optogenetic control with a photocleavable protein, PhoCl (DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.4222) (DX)

Related: With a Better Optogenetic Light Switch, Scientists Can Flip Neurons On and Off
Gene Therapy Human Trial Will Inject Virus Into the Retinas of the Legally Blind
Nerve Stimulation May Recover Memories in Alzheimer's Patients (Mice)
Scientists Test a Way to Erase Scary Memories
Mice Turned Violent by Photoactivation of Amygdala Neurons


Original Submission

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough

Mark All as Read

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23 2015, @08:44PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23 2015, @08:44PM (#226723)

    "With a Better Optogenetic Light Switch, Scientists Can Flip Neurons On and Off"

    With a better shovel diggers can dig faster.

    With a better knife sheafs can cut food more smoothly.

    With a better computer people can crunch more numbers.

    If we just make everything better we can do more.