Optogenetics: Controlling and eradicating epilepsy with lasers

By John Hewitt on January 24, 2013 at 10:54 am

Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is the most common form of seizure activity in humans. It tends to arise predictably in discrete regions on the extreme poles of either side of the brain. The ability to detect signs that a seizure is about to occur, and short-circuit any undesirable neuronal activity with targeted laser light is arguably the most advanced technology we can imagine for our day. It is here — at least for genetically enhanced Mus musculus, the ordinary house mouse.

Optogenetics is the science of using genetically modified viruses to insert light-responsive channels into the neurons that they infect. If the virus is introduced early on in development, all the progeny (offspring) of that cell can potentially be light responsive. For neurons, this means one of three things depending on the kind of channels that are used. Either the light opens channels and the neurons fire an electric signal; the light closes the channel and they temporarily can’t fire; or the light opens, in effect, negative channels which makes it even more difficult for the neurons to become responsive in the near term.

Read more: Optogenetics: Controlling and eradicating epilepsy with lasers | ExtremeTech.

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