Bioengineering: Current and Potential Uses of Channelrhodopsin

Current Uses of ChannelrhodopsinEdit


Channelrhodopsins have many potential uses; for example, scientists have partially cured blindness in mice, allowing them to see in black and white.

Researchers have embedded the cells of model organisms with channelrhodopsins, allowing them to control certain nervous functions with blue light or even returning limited sight to blind mice. This demonstrates the possibility of using channelrhodopsins as part of a treatment for blindness and to control other functions with electrical signals, such as heartbeat. In organisms where light-absorbing pigments are present, channelrhodopsins can easily be transferred in and used to depolarize excited cells in a straightforward manner. Since channelrhodopsins can be used to trace pathways in the brain, this is useful in bioengineering and neuroscience, for processes such as neural circuit probing and photostimulation. Another potential use for channelrhodopsins is in the field of Optogenetics, which explores how to control genetically modified cells - such as stimulating certain action potentials or neurological networks. Channelrhodopsins are key to this field because they could potentially induce action potentials without alteration of too many genes or addition of extraneous objects (like LED lights, used previously) into the brain. Channelrhodopsins are currently being used in trials to assist with treatment of blindness, are helping scientists gain a better understanding of how the brain works, and are also being used in trials to modify brain functions. Used properly, these proteins can help many people and animals.

Future Uses of Channelrhodopsin?Edit


Channelrhodopsins may be implanted within an organisms neurons, allowing researchers to coax specific responses by shining blue light and creating an electrical signal. Here, Stanford University students are applying this technique to allow lame mice to walk again.

We also have our own ideas about how channelrhodopsins could be used. Since they are light-activated ion channels, they can be used to control behavior by stimulating the specific neurological potentials that stimulate certain behaviors. By using channelrhodopsins to activate certain neurological networks, they could re-stimulate sections of the brain. Stimulating parts of the brain that control growth and development would allow for regeneration of the brain, which could fix neurological degeneration, as well as body and brain underdevelopment. Channelrhodopsins - inserted by a virus designed to recognize cancerous cells by telomerase or other markers - can also be used to combat cancer, by detecting and identifying cancerous cells. Electrical impulses, from blue light, could then be used to mark or guide poisons to the cancerous cells. Channelrhodopsins could also be used to improve light-sensitive alarms if used in a device that can sense and trigger an alarm at any sign of light, since they are extremely light-sensitive and cause a small electrical current in response. A key sensitive to only a specific wavelength of light could also be constructed by designing channelrhodopsins that close upon absorbance of a second spectra of light (besides blue). Channelrhodopsins could even be used in quantum computing, which relies on quantum entanglement to perform calcluations. Since these devices would solely require algae, these technologies would be cheaper and easier to produce. Channelrhodopsins could also be used to cure colorblindness (when certain colors are not let in because specific light wavelengths are not recognized) by adding more channelrhodopsins into the eye to allow the patient to see more of the spectrum. Channelrhodopsins could also be used to make light-sensitive planting pots, that would be able to recognize when and plant is not getting the optimal amount of light. It is quite evident that channelrhodopsins have many potential uses, from improving and creating devices to fixing neurological problems.