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
- OptoGap is an optogenetics-enabled assay for quantification of cell–cell coupling in multicellular cardiac tissueon April 29, 2021 at 10:19 am
Intercellular electrical coupling is an essential means of communication between cells. It is important to obtain quantitative knowledge of such coupling between cardiomyocytes and non-excitable cells ...
- Bluest of Blue: Algae-based Switch Can be Activated by Shorter Wavelengthon April 28, 2021 at 5:13 am
Researchers have identified a novel ion channel from a species of algae growing on land that can be switched on by a shorter wavelength of light.
- The bluest of blue: A new algae-based switch is lighting up biological researchon April 27, 2021 at 7:44 am
Several organisms possess 'ion channels' (gateways that selectively allow charged particles called ions to enter the cells and are integral for cell function) called channelrhodopsins, that can be ...
- Better hearing with optical cochlear implantson April 26, 2021 at 1:17 pm
The team led by Tobias Moser from the Institute for Auditory Neuroscience and InnerEarLab at the University Medical Center Göttingen and from the Auditory Neuroscience and Optogenetics Laboratory ...
- A DIY Optogenetics Device That Costs $10on April 25, 2021 at 5:00 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 Market: Recent Industry Trends and Projected Industry Size by 2020-2027on April 23, 2021 at 7:02 am
According to a new report published by Allied Market Research, titled, "Optogenetics Market: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2020-2027" The report has offered an all-inclusive ...
- Using Light to Control Cells Holds Promise across the Bodyon April 20, 2021 at 7:23 am
Optogenetics is revolutionizing neuroscience. The technique involves genetically altering particular cell types to make them produce light-sensitive proteins; scientists can then activate the ...
- New implantable tool images brain activity in 3Don April 19, 2021 at 9:45 pm
In recent years, a technology called optogenetics has shown considerable success in recording neural activity from animals in real time with single neuron resolution. Optogenetic tools use light ...
- Optogenetics Market In-Depth Analysis And Business Development Strategies Includes Top Playerson April 16, 2021 at 2:43 pm
Apr 16, 2021 (Market Insight Reports) -- Optogenetics is a biological technique that involves the use of light to control cells in living tissue, typically neurons that have been genetically ...
via Bing News