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Research: Sissa study, light to activate nerve cells

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(ANSA) – TRIESTE, 12 AUGUST – “A shock of light” to modulate the activity of a single neuron in real time. This is how the innovative nanometric photodiodes work, studied in a new research published in Science Advances according to an innovative technique developed by the team of Laura Ballerini of SISSA in Trieste, in collaboration with the Universities of Chicago and Cambridge.

In practice, if activated with an infrared ray, the photodiodes send an electrical message to the nerve cell to which they are linked, regulating their function, but also to the surrounding area with an amplification of the effect. Working like an electrode, but with a non-invasive and selective approach, these nanotechnologies – according to the scientists – may “be extremely useful for basic research, to finely investigate the mechanisms of the nervous system, but also to develop targeted therapies for neurological diseases. “.

Far from the techniques “based on electrodes or on the combination of genetic manipulation and optical techniques with the so-called optogenetics”, that of Ballerini and his collaborators Denis Scaini and Mario Fontanini, employs “innovative nanometric photodiodes, developed by the University of Chicago, capable of binding to the surface membrane of nerve cells “. Photodiodes “light up when illuminated with infrared light. In this way they can act electrically on the nerve cell, activating it. This allows us to see what the role of a specific neuron is in a particular nervous mechanism and, since infrared it is able to penetrate tissues, modulating their activity from the outside in an agile and non-aggressive way “.

Furthermore, “thanks to an ingenious mechanism developed in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, the photodiode is linked to an antibody that functions as a very precise courier that takes it exactly where we want it”. (HANDLE).

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Source: Ansa

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