Neural prostheses can restore movement to paralyzed limbs by stimulating motor axons, but do not improve function when the muscles are denervated, such as in ALS. Victor Rafuse and his team at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, have engineered a novel way to overcome this barrier by directly stimulating muscle in a controllable manner. Reported in the Oct 13 Nature Communications, the scientists expressed the light-activated channelrhodopsin-2 in the denervated skeletal muscles of transgenic mice. 10 daily doses of transcutaneous light was sufficient to decrease muscle atrophy and improve muscle contractile strength. The team hopes to find avenues to employ a similar approach in humans to improve function of muscles denervated due to injury or disease.
Magown P, Shettar B, Zhang Y, Rafuse VF. Direct optical activation of skeletal muscle fibres efficiently controls muscle contraction and attenuates denervation atrophy. Nat Commun. 2015 Oct 13;6:8506. [Pubmed]
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