Researchers at the University of Bonn have found a way to stimulate the larynx muscles of mice using light. In the long term, this method could be an option for the treatment of laryngeal paralysis, which causes difficulties in phonation and breathing. Their findings will be published in the scientific journal “Nature Communications.”
Muscles respond to nerve stimulation by contracting. Normally, light cannot be used to initiate these contractions. Several years ago, however, an exotic group of molecules known as Channelrhodopsins was discovered in green algae.
Channelrhodopsins are ion channels that open when illuminated. When channelrhodopsins are appropriately packaged and injected into a muscle, they are integrating into individual muscle cells. As soon as these cells are exposed to light, the channels open and positively charged ions flow into the muscle cell, which then contracts.
This functional principle was discovered several years ago. In 2010, the Bonn-based working group used the same method to stimulate the heart in mice. However, laryngeal muscles are part of the skeletal musculature, “and skeletal muscles follow different rules,” says the head of the study, Dr. Philipp Sasse.
For instance, each fiber in a skeletal muscle can contract separately, which allows to control movements as well as muscle strength very precisely. In addition, unlike heart muscle, skeletal muscles can perform static contractions if they are repeatedly stimulated at high frequency.
“For the first time, we have been able to show that light pulses can also create static contractions,” says Dr. Tobias Bruegmann, the first author on the study. “Depending on where we point the light beam, we can also stimulate individual muscle groups – exactly the same way the body does it through the nerves.”
New treatment options
As a result, this method may point the way to new treatment approaches. In a few years, for instance, people with laryngeal paralysis could benefit from it. Laryngeal paralysis can occur after thyroid operations, and during other pathological processes that affect the laryngeal nerves.
The larynx plays an important role in speaking and swallowing, but most importantly in breathing: when you breathe, the muscles of the larynx pull the vocal cords apart so that air can flow into the lungs. In the event of complete paralysis, the patient can no longer breathe.
Unfortunately, electrical stimulators are little effective in restoring larynx function, “because there are different muscles with opposite function close together,” explains Dr. Tobias van Bremen, an ear, nose and throat doctor and one of the co-authors of the study.
“It is almost impossible to stimulate these muscles individually using electrodes.” The light method is a promising approach. The Bonn researchers have already shown that it works in animals – they were able to use light to open the air passage in the larynges of mice. However, several technical hurdles have to be overcome, such as bringing the Channelrhodopsin into the larynx musculature. The researchers in Bonn are currently testing gene transfer techniques and also optical stimulators.
Publication: Tobias Bruegmann, Tobias van Bremen, Christoph C. Vogt, Thorsten Send, Bernd K. Fleischmann & Philipp Sasse: Optogenetic control of contractile function in skeletal muscle; Nature Communications, date, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8153
Dr. Philipp Sasse
Institut für Physiologie I, Universität Bonn
Dr. Tobias Bruegmann
Institut für Physiologie I, Universität Bonn
Dr. Tobias van Bremen
Klinik und Poliklinik für Hals-Nasen-Ohrenheilkunde/Chirurgie
Johannes Seiler | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
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...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
21.03.2018 | Life Sciences