Nanoactuator for Neuronal Optoporation

The results of the research published on ACS Nano
sketch of the photosensitive molecules on the neuronal membrane

Photoinduced modulation of neuronal activity is attracting a wide interest in neuroscience. In addition to the potential represented by optogenetics, research in this field is moving towards the development of nanomachines capable of altering the membrane potential of neuronal cells following light stimulation. The most direct practical application of this type of technology is the development of synthetic retinas capable of restoring photosensitivity to patients suffering from degenerative diseases affecting the photoreceptors present in the eye. Prof. Luca Beverina and Dr. Sara Mattiello have developed - in collaboration with researchers from the Italian Institute of Technology, the Polytechnic University of Marche, the CNR and the University of Kanazawa – a new photosensitive molecule (called BV-1) capable of spontaneously localizing into the neuronal membrane. The photoexcitation of BV-1 gives rise to a complex sequence of phenomena that have two macroscopic consequences on the structure of the neuronal membrane: a membrane depolarization and the formation of pores in the membrane itself. The latter property can be exploited to increase the local permeability of the membrane, providing a much less invasive analogue to the common patch-clamp technique, i.e. the mechanical perforation of the neuronal membrane with special needles. The effects of membrane depolarization and perforation can be discriminated based on the intensity and duration of light stimulation.

The results of the research have been reported in the article “Nanoactuator for Neuronal Optoporation” (DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.4c01672) recently published in the scientific journal ACS Nano (Impact Factor 17.1, 2022 Journal Impact Factor, Journal Citation Reports (Clarivate Analytics, 2023)).