Using light instead of pills a future possibility

12liopA fascinating, yet not fully developed technology of using light to modify the DNA of neurons in living organisms has just been employed as a painkiller in mice, paving the way for very effective and inexpensive cure for pains in humans.

Optogenetics is a very high-tech method for controlling nerve cells, and although around for a few years, continues to yield amazing discoveries. People’s fascination with it lies in its ability to be used for controlling nerve behavior in living things with surgical precision.

Having just performed new tests on mice, this time around, researchers at Stanford University in California hope that removing or blocking pain will soon be as easy as pressing a bright flashlight to the affected area. They partnered up with a company called Circuit Therapeutics – a leader in optogenetics – and published their findings in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Michael Keplitt is a neurosurgeon and chief scientific officer at Circuit Therapeutics, a three-year-old California-based biotech startup that in a short while has already taken the lead in propelling optogenetics to stardom.

“Patients could be given their own ability to create a pain block on demand,” he wrote of the technology that could be used for directly controlling nerve behavior. The technique has been around for nine years in one form or another.

When first conceived by Karl Deisseroth, one of the authors of the study and the creator of Circuit Therapeutics, the technique was used to inflict and take away fear in mice.

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