MEXICO CITY – Neurobiologist Luis Carrillo developed a technique to re-program neuron groups affected by degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, Mexico’s National Science and Technology Council said on Thursday.
The scientist uses optogenetics and two-photon microscopy, involving the use of light to control neurons that have been genetically laced with light-sensitive proteins – called opsins – that glow when the cell is active.
“It has been previously demonstrated that in several diseases such as Parkinson’s, schizophrenia or epilepsy, the activity of certain neuron groups is altered,” Carrillo said. “This means that they have pathological activity or patterns of activity they should not have.”
Carrillo experimented with the technology at Columbia University and wants to implement it in his native Mexico.
He uses a two-photon microscope and a series of lasers to simultaneously register and activate specific cells using different wave lengths.
The scientist said that a kind of artificial memory to counteract the effects of degenerative diseases will be possible in the near future through the targeted and strictly selected stimulation of neuron groups, although this has not been tried on humans.
“Every protocol to genetically manipulate human neurons is yet to be approved,” Carrillo said. “My guess is we are still about five or 10 years away from the approval of these tests.”