CompNet, Boston University Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology CompNet, Boston University Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology

Using Light to Diagnose Parkinson’s

July 29, 2014

Biomedical engineer and CompNet member Xue Han talks about her work in the new field of optogenetics in a recent interview with BU Today.

The young field of optogenetics, in which scientists reengineer nerve cells, or neurons, to respond to light, using molecules called opsins. Like ice cream, opsins come in many flavors—there’s rhodopsin in the human eye and halorhodopsin in bacteria, for instance—but they all share one key characteristic: they change shape when exposed to light.

By finding ways to implant opsins into neurons, Han, a College of Engineering assistant professor of biomedical engineering, has given researchers a simple tool to turn neurons on and off, and thereby study their function. The technique is now widely used to study brain activity, and it is leading to a better understanding of diseases and treatments.

For the full article see the BU Today website.