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Photopharmacology: Optoswitches turn pain off and sight on
Date:2/26/2014

for various types of visual impairment and certain forms of congenital blindness. In collaboration with researchers at the University of California in Berkeley, Trauner and his group have, for the first time, succeeded in restoring visual function to mice in which retinal photoreceptive cells had degenerated. The trick was to use a new synthetic switch to confer light sensitivity on the retinal ganglion cells in these mice, which normally respond to signals from the rods and cones upstream of them.

"We demonstrated some time ago that a molecule called AAQ is capable of causing nerve cells to become light-sensitive, because it modifies the behavior of ion channels in their surface membranes," Trauner says. In the meantime, he and his group had synthesized an improved variant of the AAQ switch, which they call DENAQ. The scientists in Berkeley have now shown that DENAQ can indeed restore light responsiveness to a retina that has lost its primary photoreceptive cells, as they report in the latest issue of the journal Neuron. "From the clinical point of view, DENAQ is a great advance on AAQ, because it acts specifically on a particular type of ion channel that is essential for the transmission of signals received from the rods and cones," says Trauner. In addition, and unlike AAQ, it reacts to wavelengths present in normal daylight, to which the retina is normally sensitive. "In the future, this approach could help to restore sight in people suffering from certain forms of blindness."

"In principle, one can imagine a whole range of possible applications for photopharmacology," says Trauner. "Some GPCRs, for instance, are targeted by neurotransmitters, and their functions are compromised in diseases of the central nervous system, so it is possible that optical switches could also be of interest in the treatment of conditions such as depression or epilepsy. And beyond that, one could make use of the unparalleled spatial and temporal precision of light s
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Contact: Luise Dirscherl
dirscherl@lmu.de
49-892-180-6938
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Source:Eurekalert

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