New optogenetic tool for controlling neuronal signalling by blue light

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.

Related Stories

Enlightening cancer cells

date Jul 01, 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 ...

Switching off anxiety with light

date Apr 07, 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 ...

Recommended for you

Team makes breakthrough in understanding Canavan disease

date 1 hour ago

UC Davis investigators have settled a long-standing controversy surrounding the molecular basis of an inherited disorder that historically affected Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe but now also arises in other populations ...

Finding the body clock's molecular reset button

date 5 hours ago

An international team of scientists has discovered what amounts to a molecular reset button for our internal body clock. Their findings reveal a potential target to treat a range of disorders, from sleep ...

A 'GPS' to navigate the brain's neuronal networks

date 5 hours ago

In new research published today by Nature Methods, scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Harvard University have announced a "Neuronal Positioning System" (NPS) that maps the circuitry of the ...

Neurons constantly rewrite their DNA

date 5 hours ago

Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered that neurons are risk takers: They use minor "DNA surgeries" to toggle their activity levels all day, every day. Since these activity levels are important in learning, ...

Hate to diet? It's how we are wired

date 5 hours ago

If you're finding it difficult to stick to a weight-loss diet, scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus say you can likely blame hunger-sensitive cells in your brain known ...

User 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.