NEON: Neuroprobe for Epilepsy treatment with Optogenetics.

01 January 2019 → 31 December 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Neurosciences not elsewhere classified
Project description

Standard treatment for epilepsy consists of chronic use of anti-epileptic drugs (AED). AED influence
diseased and healthy tissues, resulting in suboptimal dosing and numerous severe side effects.
Optogenetics which involves modulation of specific neurons with high cellular, spatial and temporal
specificity, can offer a solution. In theory, optogenetics would allow on-demand and focused
suppression of an epileptic seizure by illuminating the brain in the right area at the right time. This
obviously requires neuroprobes, called optrodes, able to measure neural activity (electrical) and/or
stimulate optically. Today, the most common optrodes are stiff silicon devices with low
biomechanical compatibility with brain tissue, leading to relative shear motion, which results in
chronic immune response with progressive glial scarring, depletion of neurons surrounding probes
and signal degradation over weeks. Soft, hydrogel based probes seem better suited. We aim to
develop soft optrodes which match better the biomechanical properties of brain tissue and test
their suitability for stable long-term recording and triggered optogenetic silencing of targeted
neuronal circuits in healthy and epileptic rats. For optogenetic silencing, the most potent neuronal
silencer opsin will be used which is a blue light sensitive chloride pump that is selectively expressed
in neuronal cell bodies. To succeed, interdisciplinary research is needed combining microsystem
engineering and neurophysiology.