OPTOGENETICS/NEUROLOGY: Neurophotonics is...the Future of Light!

The full-day 15th annual Future of Light Symposium, held December 1, 2011, at Boston University’s Photonics Center, explored topics in neurophotonics, providing a specific focus on optogenetics and advanced imaging techniques.

The first half of the day was devoted to optogenetics, and a number of researchers addressed it: Ed Boyden of MIT; Adam Cohen of Harvard University; Alan Horsager of the University of Southern California and EoS Neuroscience (a company he co-founded); and John Spudich of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Boyden discussed his team’s work in optogenetics, which seeks to facilitate better and less costly drugs for treating brain disorders. Specifically, he described creating a fiber-optic implant by coupling optical fibers to LEDs, and shining its light on neurons linked with channelrhodopsin in mice, which can reveal 3-D neural activity patterns. The work could create targets for treating several brain disorders in humans. In mice the technique has cured certain forms of blindness, and shows potential for cure for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Cohen’s work had been published in Nature Methods just three days before: He explained use of a gene from a Dead Sea microorganism to produce a voltage-indicating protein (VIP) that fluoresces at <500 µs when exposed to the electrical signal in a neuron. The approach allowed Cohen and his colleagues to trace the propagation of signals through the neuron. The work shows immediate promise for drug discovery, but holds future promise for genetic disorder diagnosis. —Lee Mather

For more on this and other events—and additional biophotonics topics—follow the BioOptics Worldview Blog at www.bioopticsworld.com/blogs/biooptics-worldview-blog.html.

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