The research was made using a technique called optogenetic which uses a mosquito-derived light-sensing protein to reveal the different types of signals that get passed across the neurons. Optogenetic most commonly refers to a biological technique that involves the use of light to control neurons that have been genetically modified to express light-sensitive ion channels. This helps in the study of neural circuits in the brain.
In this study, the researchers used this technique with the help of light-sensing proteins called Rhodopsin. Rhodopsin plays a vital role in the retina of the eye. Moreover, this molecule is not only present in the animals but also in fish, insects, and even mammals that bear them in various body parts, where they play a role in circadian rhythm.
Researchers demonstrated the action of protein bypassing a microscopic beam of light into the brain of mouse where the rhodopsin was able to control the activity of specific neurons. They enlisted a variety of probable sources of rhodopsin proteins, and assessed the most suitable one that perhaps helps in their research. Finally the list narrowed to two- one from mosquito and another from pufferfish. In the end, the mosquito derived rhodopsin was found to be the most suitable tool.
In order to check the efficacy of this mosquito-derived tool, they tried out this method against a drug that has the ability to dampen the communication between the synapses. Eventually, they observed the interferences was highly effective and stable with this tool. Nevertheless, they have substantiated this tool for its specificity and controllability by using it to block the neurotransmitter dopamine on one side of the brain. The results showed a typical one sided changes in the behavior of mice by lighting up a part of hemisphere in response to the mosquito rhodopsin by illuminating green light.
This method could certainly be of great help to the scientists around the globe to crack the antiquated cerebral mysteries. Moreover, this tool would be the basis for improvised therapies to treat neurological problems.
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Source: Medical Express