Next Generation Magnetogenetic Tools for Manipulating Neural Activity

2016 Seed Grant
Ali Guler, Ph.D.
University of Virginia

One of the fundamental scientific challenges of our time is to understand how the brain works. To achieve this, we must precisely manipulate neurons to observe resultant physiological or behavioral responses. The “dream tool” for neural circuit control would be one that remotely manipulates specific cells with temporal resolution approaching endogenous neuronal activity rates. In this proposal, I outline a strategy to engineer magnetically-controlled ion channels, receptors, and genome editors that can fulfill this dream. In contrast to current methods for circuit control, this approach will be minimally invasive while operating at physiologically relevant speeds and allowing manipulation of defined subsets of neurons. In addition to its uses in basic neuroscience research, the magnetogenetic toolset will be adaptable to the rescue of ill-firing neural networks or erroneous transcriptional activity to remediate brain diseases.

Other Grants

Lindsay M. De Biase, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
The Role of Microglial Lysosomes in Selective Neuronal Vulnerability
Synapses, the sites of signaling between neurons in the brain, play essential roles in learning, memory, and the health of neurons themselves. An enduring mystery is why some neurons are…
How the Nervous System Constructs Internal Models of the External World
As animals navigate their environments, they construct internal models of the external sensory world and use these models to guide their behavior. This ability to incorporate ongoing sensory stimuli into…
Xiaojing Gao, Ph.D., Stanford University
When Neural Circuits Meet Molecular Circuits: Quantitative Genetic Manipulation with Single-cell Consistency
Cells are the building blocks of our bodies. We get sick when the cells “misbehave”. The way modern gene therapies work is to introduce genes, fragments of DNA molecules that…
Rafiq Huda, Ph.D., Rutgers University
Conducting the Orchestra of Movement—Functional Role of Striatal Astrocytes in Health and Disease
Movement requires coordinated activity across a large brain-wide network. The striatum is a particularly important part of this circuit; it integrates motor-related information from many distinct brain regions to regulate…