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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Repairing Neurons with Blue Light

The nervous system is built to last a lifetime. But different diseases or influence of the environment can defeat the ability of neurons to maintain its function or to repair itself after injury.

A team led by Dr. Hernán López-Schier, Head of the Research Unit of Sensory Biology and Organogenesis at Helmholtz Zentrum München, now successfully developed repair injured nerve circuits in zebrafish.
These are zebrafish neurons projecting to the brain (green). One neuron expresses a light-activatable enzyme (red). Scientist were able to stimulate the regeneration of injured neurons using optogenetics. (Picture from: http://bit.ly/1ldgIdN)
Key to the success of the researchers' is the molecule of cyclic Adenosine MonoPhosphate (cyclic AMP or cAMP), which is produced by an enzyme called adenylate cyclase. For their experiments, scientists used a special form of this enzyme induced by blue light. Therefore, the scientists were able to specifically modulate the production of cAMP in the cell that expresses this enzyme, by using a blue light.

The researchers used this system in zebrafish larvae that have disrupted its lateral sensory nerves.

"When the blue light illuminates the severed nerves showed the ability photoactive adenylyl cyclase, repair them increases dramatically," said Xiao Yan, a student of PhD candidate who is first author of the study.

In simple terms, the scientists were able to stimulate repair neuronal circuits by increasing cAMP with blue light.

"The optogenetics has revolutionized neurobiology, because this method has been used to modify for instance the electrical activity of neurons. However, our results show for the first time how to repair complex neural circuits in the whole animal can be developed with the use of light," said López-Schier.

However, the invention does not make the head of researcher complacency. He thinks that this is just the beginning.

"Now we want to investigate whether these results can be extrapolated to other than single neurons in zebrafish, for example, to more complex neural circuits of the higher animals," he explained.

Scientists can think of using this method as a future therapeutic approach for the neuropathy treatment on diabetes and other diseases. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | SCIENCEDAILY]
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