BUFFALO, NY. -- Scientists developing a non-invasive technique
for remotely controlling the brain have received $1.2 million from
the Human Frontier Science Program to intensify their work.
The project is led by University at Buffalo Assistant Professor
Arnd Pralle, PhD, a physicist who has pioneered a method of using
tiny, magnetic particles to remotely induce neurons to fire.
The ability to stimulate different neuronal networks on command
would help scientists gain new information about how circuits
within the brain control behavior. This capability would be of
particular value to researchers studying Parkinson's disease,
traumatic brain injury and other problems caused by damaged or
malfunctioning of neurons.
The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) grant adds to $1.3
million that the UB-led research has already received from the
National Institute of Mental Health.
Using the HFSP award, scientists will develop new biocompatible
nanoparticles, and identify the arrangements of nanoparticles that
promote the fastest signaling.
The grant will fund the work of Pralle and three partners:
neurologist Thomas Knoepfel from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute
in Wako-shi, Japan; physicist Wolfgang Parak from Philipps
University in Marburg, Germany; and microbiologist Dirk Schueler
from Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany.
"Having the close collaboration with experts in complementary
fields will really push our project forward," Pralle said.
The team was one of 25 that received program grants out of a
field of applications that included almost 800 letters of intent.
The HFSP grant program prioritizes international and
intercontinental collaborations between biologists and scientists
from other fields.
Pralle's technique for remote neuro-stimulation involves the use
of heated, magnetic nanoparticles to open heat-activated ion
channels in the brain.
In a nutshell, scientists apply an alternating magnetic field to
the brain that causes the particles' magnetization to flip rapidly,
generating heat. That heat then stimulates the ion channels to
open, depolarizing the neurons and causing them to fire.
The specific research funded by the Human Frontier Science
Program will involve developing and testing two different kinds of
magnetic nanoparticles: Artificial particles with biocompatible
coatings that Parak will develop and protein-coated particles that
Schueler will synthesize using bacteria.
Knoepfel will apply the technology in brain slices and in vivo,
and Pralle will work to optimize the speed and efficiency of
Can Magnetism Help Us Control the Brain, Remotely?: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/12926
With Magnetic Nanoparticles, Scientists Remotely Control Neurons
and Animal Behavior: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/11518
Nature Nanotechnology News and Views on 'Magnetogenetics': http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/v5/n8/full/nnano.2010.163.html