- Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis sought to selectively and noninvasively target specific neurons to better understand brain function and treat brain disorders.
- Applying focused ultrasound to engineered sonothermogenetic cells induced a safe thermal effect that produced expected behavioral responses.
To better understand brain function and treat brain disorders, a multidisciplinary research group led by Hong Chen, PhD, at Washington University in St. Louis sought to selectively and noninvasively target specific neurons deep in the brain. The research was successful in delivering a viral construct containing TRPV1 ion channels to genetically selected neurons in a mouse model. Then, focused ultrasound via mild hyperthermia, activated the ion channels, acting as switch to turn the neurons on and off and control motor activity noninvasively.
“Our work provided evidence that sonothermogenetics evokes behavioral responses in freely moving mice while targeting a deep brain site,” Dr. Chen said. “Sonothermogenetics has the potential to transform our approaches for neuroscience research and uncover new methods to understand and treat human brain disorders.”
Such diseases could include epilepsy and Parkinson’s Disease.
Video Credit: Dr. Chen’s lab produced the video to show that sonothermogenetics can control behavior by stimulating a specific target deep in the brain. Credit: Chen Ultrasound Lab