Wireless light implant for Optogenetics without damage to the skull


Researchers at the University of Arizona have overcome a major limitation of optogenetics with its wireless, battery-free implant that can glow through the skull. The small device, which is implanted under the skin, can provide a light source for optogenetics that does not require damage to the skull or brain. While optogenetics is currently an experimental technique that allows researchers to learn more about the neural circuits of the brain, it may also one day be a viable therapeutic option for neurological diseases.

Optogenetics involves modifying specific neurons with a light-sensitive protein, so that when they are illuminated with light they are fired. Currently, the technique is invaluable to researchers seeking to understand the complexities of the brain and nervous system, and is commonly used in experimental animals. So far, very good, but the technique is quite invasive as it requires penetration of the skull and brain so that there can be a light source in the right location to activate the neurons.

Although the technique has great potential for treating diseases with a neurological basis, such as chronic pain, the invasive nature of the current methodology is a major obstacle. The light source developed at the University of Arizona aims to change this and bring us a little closer to clinical optogenetics.

“This technique means we can use optogenetics without having to penetrate the skull or brain tissue, which makes it much less invasive,” said Jokubas Ausra, a researcher involved in the study, through an announcement from the University of Arizona. The small device is less than a penny in diameter and is as thick as a sheet of paper, allowing it to be implanted under the scalp without too much discomfort.

“This is significant because when optogenetics is available to humans, we have technology that allows seamless distribution of light to neurons in the brain or spine,” said Gutruf, who is also a member of the Institute. BIO5 of the university. “This means we have a pioneering technology that could one day help control conditions such as epilepsy or chronic pain without invasive surgery and chronic drug use.”

For now, the technology could facilitate optogenetics-based research and require less invasive procedures in experimental animals. “This tool allows scientists to do a wide range of experiments that were not possible before,” Gutruf said. “These possibilities allow the scientific community to move faster to discover the working principles of the brain and to develop and test treatments in precise environments. This is important for many areas, for example, to allow pain-free pain therapies to overcome the crisis. of opioids “.

Study a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Wireless, battery-free subdermally implantable platforms for transcranial and long-range optogenetics in free-moving animals

Via: University of Arizona

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