Next-Generation Tools to Study Autonomic Regulation In Vivo
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The recent development of tools to decipher the intricacies of neural networks has improved our understanding of brain function. Optogenetics allows one to assess the direct outcome of activating a genetically-distinct population of neurons. Neurons are tagged with light-sensitive channels followed by photo-activation with an appropriate wavelength of light to functionally activate or silence them, resulting in quantifiable changes in the periphery. Capturing and manipulating activated neuron ensembles, is a recently-designed technique to permanently label activated neurons responsible for a physiological function and manipulate them. On the other hand, neurons can be transfected with genetically-encoded Ca2+ indicators to capture the interplay between them that modulates autonomic end-points or somatic behavior. These techniques work with millisecond temporal precision. In addition, neurons can be manipulated chronically to simulate physiological aberrations by transfecting designer G-protein-coupled receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs. In this review, we elaborate on the fundamental concepts and applications of these techniques in research.
KeywordsAutonomic regulation Optogenetics Calcium sensors DREADD
This review was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (HL093178 to EL and CoBRE P30 GM106392) and Louisiana State University Health Sciences Research Enhancement Program.
Conflict of interest
The authors report no conflict of interest.
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