Sunday, November 22, 2015

Using Optogenetics to Repair Nerve Damage

Optogenetics is a cutting edge science which involves the use of light to influence certain proteins. Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen, a German research center for environmental health, were able to use optogenetics to fix a neural network in a zebrafish. The researchers specifically used an enzyme called adenylyl cyclase to produce a messenger molecule called cAMP. The adenylyl cyclase is sensitive to blue light and will produce more cAMP when hit with this light. The researchers found that zebrafish hit with this blue light showed a significant increase in neural repair as opposed to fish that did not get the light treatment.

A common Zebrafish
This science, while still in its infancy, has huge implications for people that suffer from nerve-damage related illnesses. The hope is that one day light treatment just like this can be used for people that suffer from degenerative nerve diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis. The problem currently is the method in which the light can be introduced into the system. Zebrafish are translucent and are easily influenced by the light. Human skin, however, is not translucent and light cannot be directly used to cause any changes in any enzymes. Much more research and testing needs to be done to one day make this science a potentially valid cure for these diseases.

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