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Mol Genet Genomics. 2012 Feb;287(2):95-109. doi: 10.1007/s00438-011-0663-7. Epub 2011 Dec 20.

The optogenetic (r)evolution.

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  • 1Research Group Molecular Neurogenetics, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Kraepelinstr. 2-10, 80804 Munich, Germany.


Optogenetics is a rapidly evolving field of technology that allows optical control of genetically targeted biological systems at high temporal and spatial resolution. By heterologous expression of light-sensitive microbial membrane proteins, opsins, cell type-specific depolarization or silencing can be optically induced on a millisecond time scale. What started in a petri dish is applicable today to more complex systems, ranging from the dissection of brain circuitries in vitro to behavioral analyses in freely moving animals. Persistent technical improvement has focused on the identification of new opsins, suitable for optogenetic purposes and genetic engineering of existing ones. Optical stimulation can be combined with various readouts defined by the desired resolution of the experimental setup. Although recent developments in optogenetics have largely focused on neuroscience it has lately been extended to other targets, including stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Further development of optogenetic approaches will not only highly increase our insight into health and disease states but might also pave the way for a future use in therapeutic applications.

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