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Researchers use optogenetics to produce pain relief by shutting off neurons with light.
The potential of light as a non-invasive, highly-focused alternative to pain medication was made more apparent thanks to research conducted by scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University and the McGill University Health Centre.
Researchers bred mice with a light-sensitive trait in peripheral neurons that were known to be responsible for pain transmission. The mice were genetically modified so that these neurons, called Nav 1.8+ nociceptors, express proteins called opsins, which react to light, a process known as optogenetics.
When these sensory neurons are exposed to yellow light, the opsins move ions across the membrane, reducing the level of bioelectric activity of the cells. This effectively shuts off the neurons, decreasing the mouse’s sensitivity to touch and heat./.../