Minimally-Invasive and Activity Dependent Control of Excitable Neurons (Case 2333)

Principal Investigator:


Christopher Moore, PhD, Associate Professor

Department of Neuroscience

Brown University

Providence, RI


Brief Description:


Abnormal cellular bursting is involved in a number of disease states. These include Parkinson’s Disease, affecting 1 million Americans and incurring an annual cost of $25 billion, and epilepsy, affecting 2 million Americans with an annual cost of $15 billion. Scientists have been experimenting with therapies for these disorders that involve modulating the polarization of excitable cells. One such technique is optogenetics, which employs light to control cellular activity through light-gated ion channels. However, existing optogenetic approaches often regulate the cells in a tissue en masse, including those not in need of modulation, and also require chronically implanted devices through invasive surgical procedures. Particularly when considering mammalian therapeutic applications, there exists a need for a minimally-invasive method of optogenetics control that can target specific cells and requires little input from the patient or medical personnel.


Researchers at Brown University have been developing a technique that pairs bioluminescence with optogenetics (BLOG - Bioluminescent Optogenetics). Bioluminescence genes are delivered to cells via injection (embodiments include use of a retrovirus and other methods), which allows for an oxidation reaction between luciferin and a luminescent protein that produces light used to modulate cellular activity through light-gated ion channels. Further iterations of this technology include the conjugation of the luminescent protein with a voltage-gated ion channel, for example a voltage gate calcium channel (Cav), in which luminescence levels can be dependent on ionic concentration (Ca2+ ions). This allows for BLOG effects targeting only cells that demonstrate a particular behavior, such as those underlying diseases like Parkinson’s. This eliminates the requirements for invasive surgery and an implanted device, lowers the need for external input, and grants greater specificity compared to existing optogenetic techniques.


This technology could be applied in excitable cells including neurons, muscle cells, heart cells, and endocrine cells. This creates a wide range of additional therapeutic applications for maladies involving irregular electrical activity, including pain disorders, ADD, sleep disorders, vascular disease, diabetes, and others.



PCT application PCT/US2016/014593 is pending.


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Margaret Shabashevich,
Manager of Operations
Office of Industry Engagement & Commercial Venturing
Brown University
Christopher Moore
Ute Hochgeschwender
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