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Wireless Light Implant for Optogenetics Without Skull Damage

Published in Optogenetics.

Researchers at the University of Arizona have overcome a major limitation of optogenetics with their wireless and battery-free implant that can shine light through the skull. The small device, which is implanted under the skin, could provide a light source for optogenetics that doesn’t require damage to the skull or brain. While optogenetics is currently an experimental technique that lets researchers learn more about neural circuitry in the brain, it may also one day be a viable therapeutic option for neurological disease.

Optogenetics involves modifying specific neurons with a light-sensitive protein, so that when they are illuminated with light they fire. At present, the technique is invaluable for researchers seeking to understand the complexities of the brain and nervous system, and typically it is used in experimental animals. So far, so good, but the technique is pretty invasive, requiring penetration of the skull and brain so that a light source can be present at the correct location to activate the neurons.