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Revision as of 03:31, 25 February 2013
Introduction to Optogenetics
"Before we can find the answers, we need the power to ask new questions." -Karl Deisseroth
In essence, optogenetics is a neural modulation technique used to control neurons in vitro for the purpose of affecting the physiology of neural circuits and ultimately behavior of the studied organism. However, in recent studies, optogenetic techniques have been used to modify nonneuronal tissues, such as cardiac tissue and beta cells, willfully controlling the respective cell-specific roles. Although the implications of optogenetics seem like a panacea for many genetic diseases, much of the field is new; in terms of therapeutics, research is regretfully far behind. Currently, optogenetic techniques are attempted mostly on rodent specimens since primate studies lack profound electrophysical and behavior effects. Optogenetic is widely associated with neuroscience research- sometimes thought as the synergy between neuroscience and synthetic biology. Current optogenetically-related research aims to ascertain brain function of multiple neural circuits, but future endeavors include gene therapy for neurodegenerative diseases and neuroprosthetics.
The basis is optogentics is quite simple. The neuron in question is spliced with a specific opsin gene carried by viral vector, usually a modified lentivirus. Subsequently, the encoded opsin attached to the cell membrane. Opsin are photosensitive G protein receptors or ion channels that are induced by a specific wavelength of visible light via fiber optic cable or optrode. In turn, the opsin undergoes a conformational change, eliciting a change in membrane potential. For neuronal cells, changes in membrane potential give rise to action potentials. The strength of the depolarizing current (incoming positive charged ions) is encoded in the frequency of the action potentials generated. Furthermore, synapses (gap junction between neurons) can conduct spatial or temporal summation. Even neuronal cells can be silenced with hyperpolarizing current (incoming negative or outgoing positive charged ions). In short, optogenetics provides neuroscientists with an “on/off” switch for targeted neurons.
"The brain is a world consisting of a number of unexplored continents and great stretches of unknown territory." - Santiago Ramón y Cajal
Biochemistry behind Optogenetics
The Optogenetic Process
Applications of Optogenetics
Hepatology: Diabetes and Beta Cells
IGEM Take-home Message
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