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Wireless Optogenetics Breakthrough Highlights the Importance of Non-Invasive In Vivo Testing

Researchers at Stanford’s Deisseroth Lab have achieved a breakthrough in optogenetics, having designed and successfully implanted a fully internal device. Not only does this have tremendous potential in the field, it also highlights the importance of non-invasive testing on rodents.


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A form of neuromodulation, optogenetics has a range of applications in the biological and neuroscientific fields. Research has so far demonstrated that animal behaviour can be influenced by optogenetic stimulation. The downside of optogenetic study – up until now, anyway – has always been the equipment needed to conduct optogenetic testing and experimentation. Observing the impact that optogenetics have on behaviour is difficult when the rodents being tested have a large wire protruding from their heads and are isolated while surrounded by bulky equipment.

The Deisseroth Lab is a leading institution in the optogenetics field, and researchers have spent many years working on this issue. One of the earliest breakthroughs by Deisseroth came in 2005, when they were able to demonstrate a single-component optogenetic system for the first time. Five years down the line, the laboratory’s leader and namesake Karl Deisseroth was awarded the HFSP Nakasone Award for his work on developing and advancing optogenetic methods. In 2013 he received another award, The Brain Prize, alongside a group of other scientists in the field.

With this history, it’s no surprise that the Deisseroth Lab has pioneered entirely wireless optogenetic devices. The smallest version weighs 20mg and measures 10mm3, making it “two orders of magnitude smaller than previously reported wireless optogenetic systems”, according to Montgomery et al. Current wireless systems allow for slightly more freedom of movement, but they are still bulky and have a hampering effect on behaviour. Not only are these devices much smaller, they also use a radio-frequency controller and power source that is able to stimulate the targeted neurons while barely heating the tissue (the temperature change is less than 1°C).

The paper by Montgomery et all demonstrates the way that adaptations of the wireless internal implant allow for “untethered” control over mouse behaviour. This is an unprecedented breakthrough, and one that opens up a wide range of new possibilities in the optogenetics field.

This breakthrough in optogenetics demonstrates the true importance of enabling rodents to be observed unhindered in testing. As the only home cage technology that allows for identity to be retained in group housing long term, ActualHCA plays a huge role in facilitating better testing and the acquisition of richer data in drug discovery. There is a strong possibility that it can also be used in a range of other fields.

To read the paper by the Deisseroth Lab, click here. To read Simple Neuroscience’s story on the breakthrough, click here. If you would like to learn more about ActualHCA, view our product page or get in touch today.