Grégoire Courtine doesn’t hesitate to use the word “revolutionary” when describing the emerging field of optogenetics – a technology that uses pulses of light to control individual neural activity – and what it could mean for neuroscience. Courtine, director of the NeuroRestore research center (with neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch), is currently developing an optogenetic implant together with Stéphanie Lacour, who holds the Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Neuroprosthetic Technology.
“Our system allows us to control the activity of any neuron in the spinal cord,” says Courtine. “In turn, this helps us to understand the role it plays in the overall functioning of the nervous system.”
The key to their breakthrough is the new implant technology developed by Lacour’s research group. “We found a way to encapsulate miniaturized LEDs in a flexible implant that is thin yet sturdy enough to be applied on the surface of a mouse’s spinal cord by sliding it underneath the vertebrae along the entire lumbar section,” she says.
Source: “New photoelectric implant controls the activity of spinal neurons”, EPFL News