Optogenetics Shines with Inner Bioluminescence
Although light-sensitive optogenetic probes keep improving, they still rely on external light delivery, typically via fiber optic hardware. Unfortunately, when this hardware is implanted in laboratory animals, most often in their brains, it can cause tissue damage and infection. Also, it can hinder animals’ movements, complicating behavioral studies.
To overcome these problems, researchers at Emory University and Georgia Tech have developed optogenetic tools that could allow neuroscientists to set aside the lasers and LEDs and instead deploy glowing proteins. Neurosurgeon/neuroscientist and NS faculty member, Robert Gross, MD, PhD, is a part of this team of researchers.
Like previous investigators, the Emory/Georgia Tech team demonstrated that a luminopsin could alter the behavior of cultured cells. Yet the team's study also went a step further. It showed that luminopsins can modulate behavior in live animals.
This work was described September 24 in the journal Scientific Reports, in an article entitled, “Inhibitory luminopsins: genetically-encoded bioluminescent opsins for versatile, scalable, and hardware-independent optogenetic inhibition.”