A Clemson University research team has started a project that targets the brain and could be the first step toward treatments for illnesses ranging from addiction to depression.
Team member Steve Foulger told South Carolina Radio Network that the research is studying a method of stimulating the brain that would have patients ingest tiny particles which would lodge near light-sensitive proteins. Folger said that would allow regular imaging to be taken without having to cut through the skull, helping to examine the impact of seizures or addiction.
“What we’re trying to do is make particles that are X-ray sensitive,” Foulger said. “So the idea would be that you don’t have to go through the skull. You can actually use normal medical X-rays. This field is actually an exploding field, Optogenetics, which is the use of light to modify brain behavior.”
When hit with the X-rays, the illuminated particles would activate changes in brain function.
Foulger said they received a $6-million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the research. “Pretty exciting to have Clemson University leading such a large effort in it.”
The project brings together chemists, engineers and neuroscientists from Clemson, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of New Mexico and the University of South Carolina.