How do you turn on (or off) a nerve cell that is no longer connected to the brain? You might try a molecular “light” switch. This new piece of technology is being used by investigators at Case Western Reserve University, led by Dr. Jerry Silver, to help restore breathing and bladder function following a spinal cord injury.
Following a spinal cord injury, “signals from the brain can no longer reach the relevant muscles. The idea is to make the neurons controlling those muscles light-sensitive; the cells could then be turned on or off with an implanted light source.”
The Reeve Foundation is also funding a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Silver’s laboratory conducting research to better understand how certain molecules may interfere with the recovery of respiratory function after a spinal cord injury.
Read more about developing molecular light switches for clinic use.
Douglas S. Landsman, Ph.D.
Director, Individual Research Grants Program
Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation