LED Implant Research May Hold Key to Curing Neurological Disorders

Optogenetics is an exciting field focused around combining genetics and optics to control specific cells of living tissue. As you can imagine, the field of optogenetics has a lot of potential to help cure many illnesses and is already making major inroads in controlling and curing cardiac problems. Optogenetic LED fibers are being used to help regulate heart arrhythmia and other life-threatening illnesses, but now researchers are working on tiny LED implants to help cure other disorders, specifically, those disorders that affect the neurological system.

Previously in optogenetic therapy, medical researchers had been placing optical fibers into brain tissue. These optical fibers stimulate the brain cells by using pulses of light. Attached to those fibers is a secondary device which detects and record neurons reactions. The problem was that the fibers were not able to determine how the neurons communicated with each other. They could only see if a neuron was activated. With the newly designed LED implants, scientists can now actually “listen in” and watch how neurons are communicating with each other. Each implant is tiny, just a tenth of a millimeter wide. There are 12 LEDs and 32 electrons on each implant that are no larger than a neuron cell body. Any of these LEDs can activate a neuron if necessary, and once a neuron is activated the electrons detect any responses from the surrounding neural network.

This is a major leap forward with neurological system research, giving researchers new insight into how groups of cells both adjacent to the implants and further away are responding when a neuron in the brain is activated. With more testing, researchers are very hopeful that this new nanoscale LED technology will provide vital data to help cure Alzheimer’s disease and other major neurological disorders.

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