Retinal supplementation augments optogenetic stimulation efficacy in vivo

S. Srinivasan, B. Schelhaas, B. E. Maimon, H. Song, H. M. Herr, Retinal supplementation augments optogenetic stimulation efficacy in vivo. J. Neural Eng. (2019)


Objective: Over the last two decades, optical control of neuronal activity in the central nervous system has seen rapid development, demonstrating the utility of optogenetics as both an experimental and therapeutic tool. Conversely, applications of optogenetics in the peripheral nervous system have been relatively constrained by the challenges of temporally variable opsin expression, light penetration and immune attack of non-native opsins. Whilst opsin expression can be increased significantly through high-concentration viral induction, subsequent attack by the immune system causes temporal decay and high variability in electrophysiological response.

Approach: In this study, we present a method to circumvent the aforementioned challenges by locally supplementing all-trans-retinal (ATR) (via a slow release pellet) to increase tissue photosensitivity in transgenic mice expressing channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2) in nerves.

Main results: In mice supplemented with ATR, we demonstrate enhanced electrophysiological activation and fatigue tolerance in response to optical stimulation for six weeks.

Significance: Local supplementation of ATR enables improved optogenetic stimulation efficacy in peripheral nerves. This method enables greater exploration of neurophysiology and development of clinically-viable optogenetic treatments in the peripheral nervous system.

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