Optogenetics -- revolutionary new research technique Image 5
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Optogenetics -- revolutionary new research technique (Image 5)

July 15, 2014
Optogenetics is a revolutionary new research technique that enables scientists to use light to precisely control the activity of neurons in the brain. In optogenetics, light-sensitive ion channels and pumps, known as microbial opsins, are genetically targeted to specific cells, so that upon light delivery, just those cells will be electrically activated or silenced. In this image, a neuron is expressing the light-gated cation channel channelrhodopsin-2 (small green shapes), and is being illuminated by a focused beam of blue light (coming from the top). The opsins have opened, depolarizing or electrically activating the cell. The pulse of electricity spreads throughout the inside of the cell (white highlights), triggering the release of neurotransmitters to downstream cells. This research was supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award (CBET 10-53233), and by NSF grants EFRI 08-35878, DMS 08-48804 (a Small Grant for Exploratory Research) and DMS 10-42134, which funded the development of optogenetics tools and their applications. Credit: Ed Boyden and Massachusetts Institute of Technology McGovern Institute

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