The Wall Street Journal is featuring an article about the latest efforts in the field of optogenetics, a technique that can activate neurons within the brains of animals that are targeted via light-triggered proteins delivered by genetically engineered viruses. Because a virus can be custom modified to attach to specific groups of nerve cells, the technology may lead to therapies for Parkinson’s or the creation of the Borg pseudo-race.
In a 2005 paper, Dr. Deisseroth and another researcher, Ed Boyden, showed how to "infect" certain nerves with a virus that made them light-sensitive. The genetic-engineering technique takes a protein from a kind of pond algae that is attracted to light and places it inside the shell of a kind of virus widely believed to be benign. Then the virus infects certain nerve cells so that they, too, send out electrical spikes when illuminated. But only the infected cells respond to light, affording more precision than using electrical wires.
"There’s a lot of things you can do with light that you can’t do with electrical and magnetic fields," says Dr. Boyden, now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Light can be focused. Light can be aimed." He is looking at treatments for epilepsy and blindness using the new technique.
Read on at the Wall Street Journal: Training a Light on Brain Disease
Link: Deisseroth Optogenetics Lab at Stanford…
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