In the future, dysfunction in signal transmission in the brain will be investigated and potentially alleviated with the help of light signals. This is the goal of NEUROPA, a new European joint project in which the research group of Prof. Dr. Andreas Möglich at the University of Bayreuth has taken on a significant role. The scientists hope to use laser irradiation to control photoreceptor proteins in order to therapeutically treat networks of nerve cells in the brain. In particular, they seek to apply this approach to Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease, which might in future be mitigated in this way. The EU will provide the project with € 3.6 million in funding over the next three years.
It has long been known that the cerebral cortex of humans contains particular nerve cells classified as projection neurons. Once these cells are active, they influence networks of nerve cells located in deeper layers of the brain.
This is where important signal transmissions can be interrupted or delayed, for example, as a result of disease or injury. With the aim of gently eliminating or mitigating such disturbances, precisely targeted projection neurons in the cerebral cortex will in future be activated by laser light.
To this end, the researchers involved in the NEUROPA project plan to develop new types of phytochrome photoreceptors. Phytochromes are proteins that can be switched back and forth between two states: The wavelength of the light to which they are exposed determines their activity and thus the impulses they themselves emit to their environment.
The new phytochromes to be developed will be controlled by compact lasers so that that they in turn activate projection neurons in the cerebral cortex to a desirable extent. A better understanding of irregularities in signal transmission in deeper layers of the brain should in this way be attained, and in future also alleviated.
But how will the laser-directed phytochromes reach therapeutically suitable sites in the cerebral cortex? It would certainly be possible to inject the phytochromes into the cerebral cortex through the skullcap. However, the NEUROPA project hopes to avoid such invasive methods and instead develop an innovative, non-invasive solution.
In the future, the findings and methods of genetic engineering will ensure that the phytochromes form on their own at suitable sites in the cerebral cortex. Moreover, the micrometer wavelength laser beams used will be able to pass through the skullcap.
"Our European joint project is doing pioneering work in this still young field of research. Together with our partners, we intend to bring together new findings from optogenetics, photonics, and neurology in order to develop novel approaches in the development of gentle therapies of nerve networks in the brain.
This is particularly true with regard to severe neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Huntington's chorea," says Prof. Dr. Andreas Möglich, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Bayreuth. His research group has many years of experience in the field of photoreceptors and over this time has earned international recognition with publications in the field of optogenetics.
International research partners and research funding
Six partner institutions are working together in the NEUROPA joint project: the University of Bayreuth, Aston University Birmingham, the University of Oulu, the University of Barcelona, Sorbonne University in Paris, and Pharmacoidea Ltd in Szeged. NEUROPA is funded by the European Union, as part of "Horizon 2020", as an FET Open Project (Future and Emerging Technologies). Projects of this kind are very competitive and aim to further develop highly innovative and technologically sophisticated research ideas that will bring beneficial applications for the economy and society into easy reach.
Prof. Dr. Andreas Möglich
University of Bayreuth
Telephone: +49 (0)921 / 55-7835
Christian Wißler | Universität Bayreuth
Protein linked to cancer acts as a viscous glue in cell division
08.07.2020 | Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Enzymes as double agents: new mechanism discovered in protein modification
08.07.2020 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class
In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...
Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.
Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....
Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.
Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...
A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...
Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"
The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...
07.07.2020 | Event News
02.07.2020 | Event News
19.05.2020 | Event News
08.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy
08.07.2020 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
08.07.2020 | Materials Sciences