Colorado PROFILES, The Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI)
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Optimization of a Minimally-Invasive Bidirectional Optogenetic Peripheral Nerve Interface with Single Axon Read-in & Read-out Specificity

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Project Abstract We propose to develop a chronically implantable, all optical, optogenetic nerve interface that can non- invasively, optically neuromodulate individual axons of nerves in the parasympathetic or peripheral nervous system. The proposed interface would benefit treatment of human disease and disabilities related to the thoracic and abdominal organs and systems innervated by the cervical vagus nerve, such as epilepsy and metabolic disorders. We propose to optically interface from afferent/efferent axons in these nerves with the goal of modulating organs or brain circuits innervated by them. The bidirectional optical neural interface technology will utilize the capabilities of optogenetics enabled through viral vector transfection of afferent and/or efferent neurons with genetically targeted, optically activated reporter proteins and opsins. Our central premise is that we can use optics to communicate with axons in a nerve. For optical approaches to work we need to convert action potentials into an optical signal. This can be done using genetically encoded calcium indicators or other voltage sensitive proteins that change their fluorescent properties upon action potential generation in a neuron. Because nerves do not naturally express optical proteins, we will work with transgenic mice that express these proteins and use these mice models to refine our system before making it available for other researchers to use. We aim to develop a compact, bench-top optical system that can be shared with other research labs to provide the unique ability of being able to interrogate specific fascicles and axons within the nerve. In the future, this technology has potential for translation to human clinical applications. The technology in the proposal is ambitious, but we have formed an outstanding team of cell biologists, neuroscientists, biomedical, electrical, and mechanical engineers. The team has an excellent track record of successful collaborations on multiple grants and publications.
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