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Light Project Awarded $1.5M

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STANFORD, Calif., Aug. 5, 2008 -- A Stanford University researcher has received a $1.5 million grant to support his project aimed at using light to control a variety of cells.

Deisseroth.jpgDr. Karl Deisseroth, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, will use a $1.5 million science and engineering grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to advance his research on controlling cells with pulses of light. The technique shows promise as a tool for improving disease research and could lead to new therapies for certain ailments.

Last year, his research group demonstrated the ability to genetically engineer brain cells, called neurons, so that they could be selectively turned on in the presence of blue light, or off in the presence of yellow light. Now Deisseroth, leading a team from several departments within the schools of medicine and engineering, has made two key improvements that he will employ with the Keck funding.

One improvement is that he has begun to apply the technique to cells other than neurons, and has found that he can engineer different types of heart cells to be responsive to light. This allows researchers using the technique to study and control cells implicated in cardiac abnormalities, such as arrhythmias, in which the heart beats erratically.

Deisseroth's team has also figured out how to engineer cells to be stimulated, rather than turned off, by yellow light. Now researchers can conduct experiments in which they cause two different types of cells in a neural circuit to turn on -- one with blue light, the other with yellow. Such experiments could yield insights into diseases in which more than one cell type is suspected of playing a key role.

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Aug 2008
Electromagnetic radiation detectable by the eye, ranging in wavelength from about 400 to 750 nm. In photonic applications light can be considered to cover the nonvisible portion of the spectrum which includes the ultraviolet and the infrared.
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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