India, US Researchers Collaborate to Develop Optogenetic Tool to Understand Brain Disorders

Researchers at the Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) here in collaboration with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have developed an optogenetic tool which can help understand brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, depression and schizophrenia.

In a statement, the JMI said that the tool can study molecular trafficking in neurons and has been developed by Dr Tanveer Ahmad, who did his postdoctoral training at NIH, before joining the Multidisciplinary Centre for Advanced Research and Studies (MCARS) at the varsity as an assistant professor.

“Understanding the molecular details of these diseases will help to develop targeted therapies, in particular viral and mRNA-based methods, which are specific to a particular target molecule in the cells,” Ahmad said.

The tool can be applied to address other biological questions like memory formation, and for the development of inducible light-activated therapies for the treatment of cancer and neurodegeneration, he said.

Leveraging the potential of phototropic receptors known as light-oxygen-voltage-sensing domains derived from the plant Avena Sativa (oats) and abbreviated as AsLOV2, the researchers generated innovative chimeric molecular designs by conjugating a light-sensitive domain of LOV2 with a protein called neuregulin3 (NRG3).

Further, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and depression have genetic polymorphisms in NRG3 due to which it is considered as a susceptible gene for these diseases, according to the statement.

Using this innovative tool, the researchers discovered a new mechanism of protein trafficking in hippocampal neurons of the brain which they termed as “trans-synaptic retention”, it said.

Professor Mohd. Zulfequar, Director of MCARS, said these novel futuristic optogenetic techniques will provide unprecedented ease to understand human diseases and finding innovative treatment solutions.

The optogenetic technique has revolutionised the field of neuroscience and collaboration with institutes of the world like the NIH, shows that India is at the forefront to develop and implement these cutting-edge technologies, he said.

A study in this regard was published in a highly-reputed peer-reviewed scientific journal — “Journal of Cell Biology” by The Rockefeller University, US, the JMI said in a statement.

Ahmad is the lead author of the study while Rituparna Chaudhuri and Nisha Chaudhary are the other contributing authors, it said.

The team from NIH includes Dr. Andres Buonanno, who is the senior author, and Dr. Detlef Vullhorst, Dr. Carlos Guardia, Dr. Irina Karavanova, and Dr. Juan Bonifacino who are co-authors.

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