The US Department of Defense Funds New Direction in Monitoring and Stimulating Neurons for Directly Interfacing with the Brain
Jun 8, 2017, San Diego: Scintillon Institute Associate Professor Nathan Shaner is part of a nine-laboratory team that has been awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative. This project, dubbed “IBIS: Implantable bioluminescence interface system for an all-optical neuroprosthesis to the visual cortex,” will be funded under DARPA’s Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) program.
Ultimately, the IBIS team seeks to develop a neural interface system capable of simultaneously recording from more than one million neurons and stimulating more than one hundred thousand neurons in regions of the human sensory cortex. Accomplishing this goal will be a huge leap forward from existing neural interfaces, which are limited to much smaller numbers of neurons, and are too bulky and invasive to be used in human therapies.Read more
In 2014, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to several scientists responsible for developing methods to break the resolution limits of optical microscopy. One technique pioneered by Dr. Eric Betzig, known as PALM microscopy, allows researchers to precisely measure the locations of single protein molecules within a cell, but unfortunately requires cells to be illuminated with such high light intensities that it can only be used reliably on fixed (dead) cells; living cells are often heavily damaged or even killed within minutes of observation using this technique.
In February 2017, Scintillon Institute Principal Investigator and Associate Professor Nathan Shaner, Ph.D. was awarded an R01 grant from the NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) for the development of genetically encoded tools to solve this problem.
In order to allow researchers to observe single molecules in living cells without damaging them, Dr. Shaner will use bioluminescence - biologically-generated light that does not produce heat - to enable PALM-type imaging of individual proteins.
Scintillon Institute Associate Professor Nathan Shaner, Ph.D. was awarded a U01 grant from the NIH's National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) as part of the federal BRAIN initiative. This grant will allow Dr. Shaner and his collaborators, Chris Moore, Ph.D.(Brown University) and Ute Hochgeschwender, M.D.(Central Michigan University), to expand the development of the non-invasive technology known as BioLuminescent OptoGenetics (BL-OG), which combines biological light production with light-sensitive proteins, allowing highly flexible manipulation of individual neurons.