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Very Cool!
A way to label neurons when they become active, essentially providing a snapshot of their activity at a moment in time, has been developed

"'If you could have any tool that doesn't currently exist, what would you have?' And I said that I would like to be able to functionally define populations of neurons and then study them.'"

"The researchers designed their tool to respond to calcium, because neurons experience an flux of calcium ions every time they fire an electrical impulse. However, the neurons are only labeled if this calcium flux occurs while the cell is also exposed to a beam of blue light delivered by the researchers."

"This combination of light exposure and calcium activity triggers the activation of a transcription factor that turns on a target gene that the researchers have engineered into the cells' genome. This gene could encode a fluorescent protein or anything else that could be used to label or manipulate neurons." "The technique, which they call FLARE, by turning on a red fluorescent protein called mCherry in the motor cortex neurons of mice as they ran on a treadmill."

"This approach could also be used to label cells with light-sensitive proteins that would allow the targeted neurons to be controlled by optogenetics, or new proteins called DREADDS that allow neurons to be controlled using small-molecule drugs."
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