Oct 28, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

Neuroscientists Creates Bioluminescent Sensors For Brain Cells

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By Paula

Brain cells can now glow in the dark with the help of bioluminescent sensors, for neuroscientists to learn more about the interaction of neurons in the brain.

Researchers from the University of Vanderbilt explained they used a genetically modified form of luciferase. Luciferase is an enzyme used by fireflies for light production.

Carl Johnson, one of the researchers, explained that for long-time neuroscientists use an electrical technique to record neuron activity. This is used to record hundreds of neurons activity in the brain at the same time, Science Daily reported.

Johnson explained that optical recording needs a fluorescent that needs a strong external light source. This can cause the tissue to heat up and interfere with biological process specially if the tissue is light sensitive.

Scientists look at Chlamydomonas, a green alga, for their study. They found out that they can combine luminescence with optogenetics with this alga, Newswise reported.

Optogenetics is a technique that uses light to control neurons in living tissues. The researchers believe that they just created a powerful tool for studying brain activity.

Johnson admitted that there's a conflict between fluorescent technique and optogenetics. They explained that the fluorescent light usually interferes with the light for cell control.

For this research, Johnson and his colleagues use their findings to hijack a neuron virus. They attached this virus to their sensor molecule so that sensors are inserted into the cell interior.

They explained they also studied calcium ions because they help in neuron activation. They found out that they tend to be low inside the neuron but high in the surrounding are.

They said that they use optogenetic probes to test new calcium sensors. Their study showed that calcium ions could create the neuron's outer membrane to open which floods calcium to the cell.

The researchers also found out that luminescent enzymes react visibly to the calcium influx. They find this out after the probe was stimulated with light flashes. 

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