Research by UA professor reveals a more sophisticated method for delivering light to control neurons in the brain — which could ultimately mean turning off pain receptors or reducing the effects of severe neurological disorders.
Biomedical engineering professor Philipp Gutruf is first author on the paper Fully implantable, optoelectronic systems for battery-free, multimodal operation in neuroscience research, published in Nature Electronics.
Optogenetics is a biological technique that uses light to turn specific neuron groups in the brain on or off. For example, researchers might use optogenetic stimulation to restore movement in case of paralysis or, in the future, to turn off the areas of the brain or spine that cause pain, eliminating the need for — and the increasing dependence on — opioids and other painkillers.
“We’re making these tools to understand how different parts of the brain work,” said Gutruf, who is also a member of the BIO5 Institute. “The advantage with optogenetics is that you have cell specificity: You can target specific groups of neurons and investigate their function and relation in the context of the whole brain.”
In optogenetics, researchers load specific neurons with proteins called opsins, which convert light to electrical potentials that make up the function of a neuron. When a researcher shines light on an area of the brain, it activates only the opsin-loaded neurons.
The first iterations of optogenetics involved sending light to the brain through optical fibers, which meant that test subjects were physically tethered to a control station. Researchers went on to develop a battery-free technique using wireless electronics, which meant subjects could move freely.
But these devices still came with their own limitations — they were bulky and often attached visibly outside the skull, they didn’t allow for precise control of the light’s frequency or intensity, and they could only stimulate one area of the brain at a time.
Taking More Control and Less Space
“With this research, we went two to three steps further,” Gutruf said. “We were able to implement digital control over intensity and frequency of the light being emitted, and the devices are very miniaturized, so they can be implanted under the scalp. We can also independently stimulate multiple places in the brain of the same subject, which also wasn’t possible before.”
The ability to control the light’s intensity is critical because it allows researchers to control exactly how much of the brain the light is affecting — the brighter the light, the farther it will reach. In addition, controlling the light’s intensity means controlling the heat generated by the light sources, and avoiding the accidental activation of neurons that are activated by heat.
The wireless, battery-free implants are powered by external oscillating magnetic fields, and, despite their advanced capabilities, are not significantly larger or heavier than past versions. In addition, a new antenna design has eliminated a problem faced by past versions of optogenetic devices, in which the strength of the signal being transmitted to the device varied depending on the angle of the brain: A subject would turn its head and the signal would weaken.
“This system has two antennas in one enclosure, which we switch the signal back and forth very rapidly so we can power the implant at any orientation,” Gutruf said. “In the future, this technique could provide battery-free implants that provide uninterrupted stimulation without the need to remove or replace the device, resulting in less invasive procedures than current pacemaker or stimulation techniques.”
Devices are implanted with a simple surgical procedure similar to surgeries in which humans are fitted with neurostimulators, or “brain pacemakers.” They cause no adverse effects to subjects, and their functionality doesn’t degrade in the body over time. This could have implications for medical devices like pacemakers, which currently need to be replaced every five to 15 years.
The paper also demonstrated that animals implanted with these devices can be safely imaged with computer tomography, or CT, and magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, which allow for advanced insights into clinically relevant parameters such as the state of bone and tissue and the placement of the device.
The Latest on: Optogenetics
via Google News
The Latest on: Optogenetics
- Optogenetics For 100 Euroson January 9, 2021 at 3:59 pm
Larval zebrafish, Drosophila (fruit fly), and Caenorhabditis elegans (roundworm) have become key model organisms in modern neuroscience due to their low maintenance costs and easy sharing of ...
- Colored light investigated to control irregular heartbeat noninvasivelyon January 8, 2021 at 11:13 pm
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $2.1 million four-year grant for cardiac optogenetics research led by Chao Zhou, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey ...
- Neuroscience Widens Its Investigations of Disease Mechanismson January 8, 2021 at 8:56 am
A systems perspective informs the work of Neurocrine Biosciences, which seeks new treatments where neurobiology interconnects with endocrinology and other disciplines.
- Optogenetics News and Researchon January 7, 2021 at 4:00 pm
Cellular optogenetics is a technique that allows researchers to use light to precisely control cell signaling and function in space and time enabling the investigation of mechanisms involved in ...
- A DIY Optogenetics Device That Costs $10on January 5, 2021 at 4:00 pm
The first completely implantable optogenetics stimulator has a price point so low that research labs with tight budgets can afford to investigate the technology. Now, Ada Poon, PhD, a Stanford ...
- Optogenetics Turns Gut Bacterial Genes On and Off Inside Wormson December 23, 2020 at 8:00 am
“Thus, optogenetics can be used to achieve quantitative and temporal control of gut bacterial metabolism in order to reveal its local and systemic effects on host health and aging.” ...
- Could Controlling Bacteria With Light Extend Your Lifespan?on December 22, 2020 at 4:00 pm
The approach would involve a technique called 'optogenetics', where cells are engineered to have genes that respond to light, meaning you can then control an organism's genetic activity — even ...
- Optogenetic method can reveal how gut microbes affect longevityon December 16, 2020 at 4:00 pm
Optogenetics offers a direct way to manipulate gut bacterial metabolism in a temporally, quantitatively and spatially controlled manner and enhance host fitness. Research has shown that gut ...
- Optogenetics Market 2020: Global Analysis Of Key Manufacturers, Dynamics & Forecast 2027 | Leading Players- GenSight Biologics, Danaher, Cohorenton December 15, 2020 at 10:30 am
An influential Optogenetics Market report carries out an evaluation of the growth rate and the market value of Optogenetics industry based on market dynamics and growth inducing factors. Thorough ...
- Optogenetics Market 2021 Upcoming Developments, Business Opportunities, Market Dynamics, New Trends and Forecast to 2024on December 6, 2020 at 3:59 pm
“Optogenetics Market” forecast 2021-2024 Research Report is a historical overview and thoroughly study of the present and upcoming market of the Optogenetics industry. The report represents a ...
via Bing News