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Remote-Controlled Nerve Cells: Secret of the “Light Switch” Revealed

Jülich/Frankfurt, 24 November 2017 – Optogenetics makes it possible to switch nerve cells on and off using special light-sensitive "protein switches". Channelrhodopsin-2 is one of the most important of these "light-switch proteins" and the first to have been incorporated into nerve cells successfully. Today, it is used in laboratories worldwide, as it opened up the field of optogenetics – a field that neuroscience could no longer do without. Channelrhodopsin-2 is used in basic neuroscientific research and also in muscle physiology and cell biology with the prospect of developing new gene-therapeutic approaches. Only recently did scientists from Jülich, Frankfurt, Grenoble, and Moscow succeed in revealing the blueprint, i.e. the molecular structure of this light-sensitive protein – a milestone towards understanding the way it works. The findings were published in the specialist journal Science.

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