Interview: Ed Boyden on Optogenetics, Neuroscience, and the Future of Neuroengineering

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Mar 4, 2014 11:49:07 AM

As MIT's Ed Boyden explains it, his goal is "to understand the brain at a level of abstraction that enables the engineering of its function." Once scientists can do that, they will not only understand how the brain works, but also how to fix it when things go awry. To reach that goal, his group develops tools to tinker with brain circuits using the power of light.

In a recent article published in Nature Methods, Boyden and his team describe the discovery of a light-sensitive opsin from algae that is sensitive to red light instead of blue, which will allow researchers to independently control the activity of two populations of neurons at once.

Read More >

Topics: Plasmid Technology, Interview, Investigator Feature, Optogenetics

Let There Be LITE Plasmids

Posted by Kendall Morgan on Nov 21, 2013 10:56:00 AM

When neuroscience graduate student Silvana Konermann first entered Feng Zhang’s lab at MIT, the use of customizable DNA-binding domains based on transcription-activator-like effectors (TALEs) as anchors for genome engineering applications was still very new. Now, Konermann and her colleagues including Zhang and Mark Brigham have taken the technology to another level with the addition of two light-sensitive ingredients - CRY2 and CIB1 – which they borrowed from Arabidopsis thaliana. The results are light-inducible transcriptional effectors (LITEs) designed to bind specific genes and turn them on or off, literally at the flip of a (blue) light switch.

Zhang’s team devised the plasmids now available in Addgene’s repository for use in neurons, both in culture and in living brain tissue. “The brain is such an amazing and dynamic organ,” Konermann explained. “It helps us adapt to influences in our environments. We are able to react and learn. All of this requires genes to be regulated dynamically.”

Read More >

Topics: Plasmid Technology, Genome Engineering, Optogenetics

Subscribe to Our Blog