CLEMSON, SC (WSPA) – A Clemson University research team got $6 million to develop a way of stimulating specific parts of the brain that could be a step toward treatments for seizure and illnesses like addiction and depression.
The researchers hope patients would someday eat tiny particles that lodge themselves near light-sensitive proteins in the brain that could be illuminated with x-rays to change brain function.
Clemson says the process is called optogenetics.
They say it often involves using light to open and close synaptic channel that can help change behavior.
Team leader Stephen Foulger said it will be years before optogenetics could be used in treatments, but the potential
“3D printing saw an explosion in terms of its development and applications in the industrial world a few years ago, and optogenetics is now experiencing a similar growth in the academic neuroscience community,” Foulger said.
Researchers say they hope the research will lay the groundwork for a noninvasive way of targeting specific areas of the brain.
They says the level of X-ray radiation involved would be at routine medical levels or lower.
They say preliminary results have been encouraging.
A team of Clemson researchers went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham in January to run experiments aimed at learning whether it would be possible to change the synaptic behavior in brain cells harvested from a rat.
They say it worked.
Researchers say they will now begin to create nanoparticles that are many times smaller than the width of a human hair.
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