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Optogenetics chosen as Method of the Year 2010

January 2011. The journal Nature Methods has chosen Optogenetics as its Method of the Year 2010. This research method was selected for its capacity to control cell function with light. In the few years since its development optogenetics has revolutionized the way experiments are conducted in neuroscience. The method has great potential for the study of many signaling pathways in cell biology. Frankfurt scientists Ernst Bamberg and Alexander Gottschalk and their colleagues are pioneers in the use of this new research tool.

A team headed by Alexander Gottschalk has now shown for the first time how an animal can be directed reliably precisely through light impulses. The ability to optically excite or silence specific cells using optogenetics is a powerful tool to find out more about the detailed working of the nervous system.

Earlier optogenetic experiments in small organisms have mostly been performed using whole-field illumination and genetic targeting, strategies that do not always provide adequate cellular specificity. Targeted illumination can be a valuable alternative but it has only been shown in motionless animals without the ability to observe behavior output. In collaboration with Hang Lu from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA, the scientists developed a real-time, multimodal illumination technology  that allows both tracking and recording the behavior of freely moving C. elegans worms while stimulating specific cells that express channelrhodopsin-2 or MAC. The new technology, published online on 16 January 2011 in Nature Methods, enhances the ability to control, alter, observe and investigate how neurons, muscles and circuits ultimately produce behavior in animals using optogenetics. 

Prof. Dr. Alexander Gottschalk, Institut für Biochemie, Campus Riedberg, Tel.: +49 69 7982-9261, e-mail: a.gottschalk@em.uni-frankfurt.de


Full paper:
Stirman JN, Crane MM, Husson SJ, Wabnig S, Schultheis C, Gottschalk A, Lu H (2011) Real-time multimodal optical control of neurons and muscles in freely behaving Caenorhabhditis elegans. Nat Methods:published online 16 January 2011, DOI: 10.1038/NMeth. 1555 [link]