New techniques are being explored to potentially bring movement back to paralyzed limbs. Through the manipulation of stem cells, researchers are attempting to create light activated neurons. This branch of science is known as optogenetics. Optogenetics, from the Greek optos (visible) is the manipulation of neurons that have been altered to possess light sensitivity. The results are truly amazing. The neurons are programmed to respond to blue light. Scientists are designing these light activated neurons to “fine-tune” muscle control using different light patterns and intensity. Studies have shown that the newly engineered neurons exhibit growth along the pathways of the old neurons allowing for innervation of paralyzed tissues. This new technology provides many opportunities for advancement in modern medicine. When tested on mice previously paralyzed limbs began to function after modification with the new neurons. King’s college London is the birth place of this groundbreaking technology with Dr. Ivo Lieberam leading the charge. His invention of the light-sensitive neurons has only solidified the endless possibilities of science and the human body.
University College London. “Light-activated neurons from stem cells restore function to paralyzed muscles.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140404140303.htm>.