All our daily activities, from driving to work to solving a crossword puzzle, depend on signals carried along the body's vast network of neurons. Propagation of these signals is, in turn, dependent on myriad small molecules within nerve cells -- receptors, ion channels, and transmitters -- turning on and off in complex cascades.
Until recently, the study of these molecules in real time has not been possible, but researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Munich have attached light-sensing modules to neuronal molecules, resulting in molecules that can be turned on and off with simple flashes of light.
“We get millisecond accuracy,” says Joshua Levitz, a graduate student at Berkeley and first author of the study. According to Levitz, the “biggest advantage is that we can probe specific receptors in living organisms.” Previous methods using pharmacological agents were much less specific, affecting every receptor in every cell. Now, investigators can select individual cells for activation by focusing light. And by attaching light-sensing modules to one class of molecules at a time, they can parse the contributions of individual classes to neuronal behavior.
Levitz will be presenting a system in which G-protein-coupled receptors, molecules that play key roles in transmitting signals within cells, can be selectively activated. He is planning to use the system to study the hippocampus, a region of the brain where memories are formed, stored and maintained. There may be clinical utility to the system as well, he points out. G-protein-coupled receptors are also critical for vision in the retina, and light-sensing versions could potentially be introduced into people with damaged retinas in order to restore sight.
The presentation, “Design and Application of a Light-Activated Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor for Optical Control of Intracellular Signaling Pathways” will be presented at 8:30 a.m. on March 7, 2011 in Room 309 of the Baltimore Convention Center. ABSTRACT: http://tinyurl.com/4lf9dse
The research was funded by the Nanomedicine Development Center at the National Institutes of Health.
MORE MEETING INFORMATION
Each year, the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting brings together more than 6,000 scientists and hosts more than 4,000 poster presentations, 200 exhibits, and more than 20 symposia. The largest meeting of its type in the world, the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting retains its small-meeting flavor through its subgroup meetings, platform sessions, social activities, and committee programs.QUICK LINKS
Ellen R. Weiss | Newswise Science News
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
24.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences