The ultimate brain controlled interface becoming a reality

11/21/2013 - 13:04

John Hewitt

The robotic brain surgeon, featured in the 2013 movie "Enders Game" is no fictional brain-fixing machine. The open-source surgical platform, known as Raven II, has already starred in several brain procedures to date. It is not too hard now to imagine machines like this eventually installing brain controlled interfaces (BCIs). What is missing from this futuristic vision, is what happens at the business end, where the bots meet the brain.


Ref: Fast targeted gene transfection and optogenetic modification of single neurons using femtosecond laser irradiation. Scientific Reports (21 November 2013) | DOI: 10.1038/srep03281 (Open Access)


A prevailing problem in neuroscience is the fast and targeted delivery of DNA into selected neurons. The development of an appropriate methodology would enable the transfection of multiple genes into the same cell or different genes into different neighboring cells as well as rapid cell selective functionalization of neurons. Here, we show that optimized femtosecond optical transfection fulfills these requirements. We also demonstrate successful optical transfection of channelrhodopsin-2 in single selected neurons. We extend the functionality of this technique for wider uptake by neuroscientists by using fast three-dimensional laser beam steering enabling an image-guided “point-and-transfect” user-friendly transfection of selected cells. A sub-second transfection timescale per cell makes this method more rapid by at least two orders of magnitude when compared to alternative single-cell transfection techniques. This novel technology provides the ability to carry out large-scale cell selective genetic studies on neuronal ensembles and perform rapid genetic programming of neural circuits.