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A 3-D light switch for the brain
Date:11/19/2012

y be able to use a modified 3-D array as a neural prosthesis that could help to treat neurological conditions. Using light to stop overactive cells from firing might alleviate the uncontrollable muscle action of Parkinson's disease. Cells that cause seizures in the brain could be quieted optically without the side effects of anti-seizure medications. Implants that correct hearing deficiencies are also being explored with this technology.

Although the new device is effective in bringing light to the brain, other challenges remain before optogenetics can be used for medical therapy, Boyden says. Scientists do not yet know for certain whether the body will detect the opsin proteins as foreign molecules and reject them. Gene therapy will also have to prove itself if neurons are to be sensitized with opsin effectively.

"It's a long road," Boyden admits.

Meanwhile, he continues, the demand for the tool is currently higher than his team can supply. Boyden says his group is excited about the possibility of commercializing the new 3-D array, as one potential route that would make the devices available as quickly as possible to the neuroscience community.


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Contact: Angela Stark
astark@osa.org
202-416-1443
Optical Society of America
Source:Eurekalert  

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