1. 논문관련 분야의 소개, 동향, 전망을 설명, 연구과정에서 생긴 에피소드
The use of optogenetics in the brain has revolutionized the interrogation of neural circuitry by enabling temporal and spatial control of neuronal function. This approach utilizes light-sensitive channels, receptors, or pumps to activate, inhibit, or modulate neuronal activity. Activation or inhibition of neuronal pathways both in vitro and in vivo using these light-activated proteins has enabled detailed mapping of neuronal circuits and unprecedented insights into neuronal functions. Substantial interest has developed in utilizing optogenetics to dissect neural pathways involved in the brain. Furthermore, optogenetics offers the possibility of novel, nonpharmacologic approaches to managing chronic pain and itching, which afflict millions of people. However, attempts to apply optogenetic studies to tissues beyond the brain are stymied by the inability to target peripheral and spinal circuits in freely-moving animals. Studies to date have primarily utilized cumbersome tethered fiber optic cables or light emitting diode (LED) arrays to activate opsins that are expressed transgenically or delivered through gene therapy. Although these experimental approaches have utility, physical tethers impede movement which can alter behaviors and frustrate the natural motion of animals in complex environments. This has limited the ability to optogenetically manipulate neural circuits in behavioral assays, and complicates the interpretation of behavioral data.
In addition to their use for basic research, optogenetics triggered by wireless platforms can have long-term potential to serve as important clinical tools. Gene therapy that could be used to deliver optogenetic channels to human cells is already in clinical trials, and with the appropriate testing these optogenetic stimulators could be adapted for use in treating malfunction of neural circuits in the brain or chronic intractable human diseases. While a great deal of work remains before the platform can be applied to humans, they expand the range of optogenetically controllable tissues and the range of experiments that can be conducted in freely behaving animals. With additional development and safety testing, this platform may allow the application of this powerful technique to a host of new approaches with basic and translational potential.
2. 연구를 진행했던 소속기관 또는 연구소에 대해 소개 부탁 드립니다.
Currently, I am affiliated in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where it provides strong engineering programs. This work was done through close collaboration with School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis where their programs are also very competitive.
3. 연구활동 하시면서 평소 느끼신 점 또는 자부심, 보람
A stretchy electronic implant as small as a your fingertip can control the feeling of pain in mice. That proof of concept could pave the way for future medical implants that hack the human nervous system and offer relief for people living with chronic pain. The new demonstration represents a huge step forward for optogenetics technology: A futuristic field of science that hacks nerve cells by genetically changing them to become responsive to light. Until now, the rigid electronic components of such implants limited their placement inside living bodies. The newest generation of stretchy, wireless electronic implants bypasses those old limitations with flexible implants that can control pain signals in the main leg nerve and spinal cord of genetically-engineered mice.
4. 이 분야로 진학하려는 후배들 또는 유학준비생들에게 도움이 되는 말씀을 해 주신다면?
What makes us human and unique among all creatures is our brain. Perception, consciousness, memory, learning, language, and intelligence all originate in and depend on the brain. The brain provides us with wondrous things, but when it goes awry, we are undone. Over the past century, our understanding of the brain has raced forward, yet those who study the brain are still scratching the surface. To be honest, we haven't fully understood why neural circuits in the brain mulfunction. This indicates there are still tons of opportunities for potential researchers. You can change the world.
5. 연구활동과 관련된 앞으로의 계획이 있으시다면?
The technology is not ready for human clinical trials just yet. My eventual goal is to use this technology to treat pain in very specific locations by providing a kind of 'switch' to turn off the pain signals long before they reach the brain.
6. 다른 하시고 싶은 이야기들....
I'd like to thank BRIC for introducing my work to broader audience.