New optogenetic tool for controlling neuronal signalling by blue light

July 7, 2014

Institute for Basic Science (IBS), the main organization of the International Science and Business Belt project in South Korea, has announced that a group of researchers, led by professor Won Do Heo, have developed a new technology in the field of optogenetics that can remotely control specific receptors by light. They have named this new technology "OptoTrk" and it has succeeded with neuronal differentiation inducement.

The most significant feature of OptoTrk technology is that it requires only light to activate neuronal functions without the need of other substances. The receptors are activated when exposed to blue light, and then induce both neuronal growth and differentiation by upregulating downstream cell signalling.

"We are now conducting neuroscience research on several mouse models using our OptoTrk technology," says professor Won Do Heo, who led the research. "This newly developed technology will play a ground-breaking role in investigating the functions of neurons in the brain, specifically those functions in the most complicated of neural networks, which existing technologies have limitations exploring."

Before the development of this , natural ligands or agonists were widely used as tools to specifically control receptor activity. However, they did not allow spatiotemporal control, and so required a time period to bind with the receptor. Therefore, there were limits to understanding the dynamic nature of intracellular signalling networks. To address these limitations, the researchers developed this new technology using optogenetics. Recently optogenetics is attracting attention from many, various fields in the biological sciences. This study applies light-sensitive proteins - found in microorganisms and plants - to human (and/or animal) cells and can manipulate several cell functions.

"We have found that optoTrk can be regulated by simply switching light on and off," says professor Won Do Heo. "We were able to control the functional duration of down-stream signalling by adjusting the frequency of blue-light illumination."

Professor Won Do Heo added that he plans to publish an additional paper related to source technology in another renowned journal by the end of June. This will bring the Professor's number of published research outcomes related to the study of to a total of 3 in the last two months. These publications include the paper regarding "Light-Activated Reversible Inhibition by Assembled Trap (LARIAT)". This paper on LARIAT was published in May in the prominent science journal, Nature Method, in the field of biochemistry.

Explore further: Enlightening cancer cells

Related Stories

Enlightening cancer cells

July 1, 2014

Joint EMBO Journal paper by IST Austria and Vienna Medical University groups on engineered cell surface receptors activated by light. Small algal protein domains serve as synthetic light sensors in human cells. First application ...

Switching off anxiety with light

April 7, 2014

Receptors for the messenger molecule serotonin can be modified in such a way that they can be activated by light. Together with colleagues, neuroscientists from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) report on this finding in ...

Recommended for you

Scientists develop new drug screening tool for dystonia

December 8, 2016

Duke University researchers have identified a common mechanism underlying separate forms of dystonia, a family of brain disorders that cause involuntary, debilitating and often painful movements, including twists and turns ...

Transplanted interneurons can help reduce fear in mice

December 8, 2016

The expression "once bitten, twice shy" is an illustration of how a bad experience can induce fear and caution. How to effectively reduce the memory of aversive events is a fundamental question in neuroscience. Scientists ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.