Researchers from the University of Alberta are capitalizing on one of the hottest new neuroscientific research trends—combinations of optical and genetic techniques called “Optogenetics”—in an attempt to help improve the treatment given to premature infants.
Led by neuroscientist Greg Funk, who received a five-year, $778,000 research grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, University of Alberta researchers use both optical and genetic research methods to study how the brain controls breathing. Specifically, Funk and his team will apply optogenetic research by shining various wavelengths of light on different areas of the brain in order to study the rhythms responsible for breathing.
Working with additional researchers Alex Gourine from University College London and Sergey Kasparov from the University of Bristol, the University of Alberta team will use their optogenetic techniques to investigate the role of a brain cell called astrocytes. Astrocytes are significant because they can detect carbon dioxide levels that signal the brain to increase breathing; in this way, researchers hope to apply optogenetics to astrocytes to determine what causes increased rates of breathing in low-oxygen situations —such as with premature babies.
Latest research craze could help premature babies [University of Alberta]