August 22, 2016

Grant will fund CU researchers attempting to fixing brain connections using new micorscope

The Denver Post
Yesenia Robles

A team of neuroscientists and engineers in Colorado won an $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to experiment with reconnecting parts of the brain using a miniature, lightweight microscope.

“One major problem with the brain is that with certain diseases or injuries, one part of the brain stops talking to another,” said co-investigator Diego Restrepo in a news release. Restrepo is professor of cell and developmental biology and director of the Center for NeuroScience at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “If someone has a stroke they may no longer be able to speak.”

It is difficult to reestablish brain connections after they are lost.

The research team that won the grant includes researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Colorado.

According to a news release from CU, the microscope that will be tested uses an electrowetting lens — a liquid lens that can change shape when voltage is applied — “mounted on the head of a mouse and with its high-powered, fiber-optic light can actually view and control neural activity as it happens.”

In the grant-funded experiment, researchers will attempt to cut off and then restore a mouse’s ability to smell using an optic fiber and the microscope. The mouse would be awake while researchers stimulate the animal’s brain activity using laser light that flows through the microscope’s fiber-optic bundle.

If this experiment is successful, Restrepo said, the microscope eventually could be modified to activate neurons in the visual cortex based on the visual input, potentially restoring a person’s ability to see.