Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stimulating brain cells with light

Date:
October 26, 2012
Source:
Lund University
Summary:
Introducing a light-sensitive protein in transgenic nerve cells ... transplanting nerve cells into the brains of laboratory animals ... inserting an optic fibre in the brain and using it to light up the nerve cells and stimulate them into releasing more dopamine to combat Parkinson's disease. These things may sound like science fiction, but they are soon to become a reality in a research laboratory in Sweden.

Introducing a light-sensitive protein in transgenic nerve cells ... transplanting nerve cells into the brains of laboratory animals ... inserting an optic fibre in the brain and using it to light up the nerve cells and stimulate them into releasing more dopamine to combat Parkinson's disease. These things may sound like science fiction, but they are soon to become a reality in a research laboratory at Lund University in Sweden.

Related Articles


For the time being, this is basic research but the long term objective is to find new ways of treating Parkinson's disease. This increasingly common disease is caused by degeneration of the brain cells producing signal substance dopamine.

Many experiments have been conducted on both animals and humans, transplanting healthy nerve cells to make up for the lack of dopamine, but it is difficult to study what happens to the transplant.

"We don't know how the new nerve cells behave once they have been transplanted into the brain. Do they connect to the surrounding cells as they should, and can they function normally and produce dopamine as they should? Can we use light to reinforce dopamine production? These are the issues we want to investigate with optogenetics," says Professor Merab Kokaia.

Optogenetics allows scientists to control certain cells in the brain using light, leaving other cells unaffected. In order to do this, the relevant cells are equipped with genes for a special light-sensitive protein. The protein makes the cells react when they are illuminated with light from a thin optic fibre which is also implanted in the brain. The cells can then be "switched on" when they are illuminated.

"If we get signals as a response to light from the host brain, we know that they come from the transplanted cells since they are the only ones to carry the light-sensitive protein. This gives us a much more specific way of studying the brain's reactions than inserting an electrode, which is the current method. With an electrode, we do not know whether the electric signals that are detected come from "new" or "old" brain cells," explains Merab Kokaia.

The work will be conducted on laboratory rats modelling Parkinson's disease. The transplanted cells will be derived from skin from an adult human and will have been "reprogrammed" as nerve cells. Merab Kokaia will be collaborating with neuro-researchers Malin Parmar and Olle Lindvall on the project. The three Lund researchers have received a grant of USD 75 000 from the Michael J. Fox Foundation, started by actor Michael J. Fox and dedicated to Parkinson's research.

The light-sensitive protein is obtained from a bacterium, which uses light to gain energy. Since it is not a human protein, the safety checks will be extra strict if the method is to be used on humans.

"We know that this is long term research. But the methodology is interesting and it will be exciting to see what we can come up with," says Merab Kokaia.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Lund University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Lund University. "Stimulating brain cells with light." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121026084356.htm>.
Lund University. (2012, October 26). Stimulating brain cells with light. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121026084356.htm
Lund University. "Stimulating brain cells with light." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121026084356.htm (accessed January 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Poultry Culled in Taiwan to Thwart Bird Flu

Poultry Culled in Taiwan to Thwart Bird Flu

Reuters - News Video Online (Jan. 28, 2015) Taiwan culls over a million poultry in efforts to halt various strains of avian flu. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

AP (Jan. 27, 2015) A Texas woman who lost more than five pounds of flesh to a shark in the Bahamas earlier this month could be released from a Florida hospital soon. Experts believe she was bitten by a bull shark while snorkeling. (Jan. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shoveling Snow: How to Prevent Back Injuries

Shoveling Snow: How to Prevent Back Injuries

Washington Post (Jan. 26, 2015) What&apos;s the proper technique for shoveling snow? A physical therapist offers specific tips for protecting your back while you dig out this winter. Video provided by Washington Post
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Mistakes Should Serve a Lesson Says WHO

Ebola Mistakes Should Serve a Lesson Says WHO

AFP (Jan. 25, 2015) The World Health Organization&apos;s chief on Sunday admitted the UN agency had been caught napping on Ebola, saying it should serve a lesson to avoid similar mistakes in future. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins