Saturday, February 25, 2017
Bioluminescent sensor causes brain cells to glow in the dark - NEUROSCIENCE
A new kind of bioluminescent sensor causes individual brain cells to imitate fireflies and glow in the dark.
The probe, which was developed by a team of Vanderbilt scientists, is a genetically modified form of luciferase, the enzyme that a number of other species including fireflies use to produce light. It is described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.
The scientists created the technique as a new and improved method for tracking the interactions within large neural networks in the brain.
“For a long time neuroscientists relied on electrical techniques for recording the activity of neurons. These are very good at monitoring individual neurons but are limited to small numbers of neurons. The new wave is to use optical techniques to record the activity of hundreds of neurons at the same time,” said Carl Johnson, Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences, who headed the effort.
“Most of the efforts in optical recording use fluorescence, but this requires a strong external light source which can cause the tissue to heat up and can interfere with some biological processes, particularly those that are light sensitive,” he said.
Individual neuron glowing with bioluminescent light produced by a new genetically engineered sensor. (Johnson Lab / Vanderbilt University)