Specially tailored, ultrafast pulses of light can trigger neurons to fire and could one day help patients with light-sensitive circadian or mood problems, according to a new study in mice at the University of Illinois.
Chemists have used such carefully crafted light beams, called coherent control, to regulate chemical reactions, but this study is the first demonstration of using them to control function in a living cell. The study used optogenetic mouse neurons - that is, cells that had a gene added to make them respond to light. However, the researchers say the same technique could be used on cells that are naturally responsive to light, such as those in the retina.
"The saying, 'The eye is the window to the soul' has some merit, because our bodies respond to light. Photoreceptors in our retinas connect to different parts in the brain that control mood, metabolic rhythms and circadian rhythms," said Dr. Stephen Boppart, the leader of the study published in the journal Nature Physics. Boppart is an Illinois professor of electrical and computer engineering and of bioengineering, and also is a medical doctor.
The researchers used light to excite a light-sensitive channel in the membrane of neurons. When the channels were excited, they allowed ions through, which caused the neurons to fire.
While most biological systems in nature are accustomed to the continuous light from the sun, Boppart's team used a flurry of very short light pulses - less than 100 femtoseconds. This delivers a lot of energy in a short period of time, exciting the molecules to different energy states. Along with controlling the length of the light pulses, Boppart's team controls the order of wavelengths in each light pulse.
"When you have an ultrashort or ultrafast pulse of light, there's many colors in that pulse. We can control which colors come first and how bright each color will be," Boppart said. "For example, blue wavelengths are much higher energy than red wavelengths. If we choose which color comes first, we can control what energy the molecule sees at what time, to drive the excitement higher or back down to the base line. If we create a pulse where the red comes before the blue, it's very different than if the blue comes before the red."
The researchers demonstrated using patterns of tailored light pulses to make the neurons fire in different patterns.
Boppart says coherent control could give optogenetics studies more flexibility, since changing properties of the light used can give researchers more avenues than having to engineer mice with new genes every time they want a different neuron behavior.
Outside of optogenetics, the researchers are working to test their coherent control technique with naturally light-responsive cells and processes - retinal cells and photosynthesis, for example.
"What we're doing for the very first time is using light and coherent control to regulate biological function. This is fundamentally more universal than optogenetics - that's just the first example we used," Boppart said. "Ultimately, this could be a gene-free, drug-free way of regulating cell and tissue function. We think there could be 'opto-ceuticals,' methods of treating patients with light."
Editor's notes: To reach Stephen Boppart, call 217-244-7479; email: email@example.com.
The paper "Coherent control of an opsin in living brain tissue" is available online. DOI: 10.1038/nphys4257
Liz Ahlberg Touchstone | EurekAlert!
North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich
Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein
22.03.2018 | Universität Basel
An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.
The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News
22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences