The term "optogenetics" was initially coined in 2006 (Deisseroth 2006) to refer to a rapidly adapted approach of using new high-speed optical methods for probing and controlling genetically targeted neurons within intact neural circuits. More than 500 laboratories around the world are now using optogenetic tools in a broad range of animal models, brain regions, and cell types. Moreover, the field of optogenetics has the capability to not only help explain normal brain function, but also to help explain disease states, and possibly to help inform the development of novel therapeutic strategies for a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders.
The (re)birth of optogenetics
In a few years time, a small algal protein called channelrhodopsin has made his way up to the spotlights of the Neuroscience research community. Thanks to it, turning on identified cell types in a rapid, reversible and selective manner using light is becoming standard procedure. This technical revolution has been given a name: “optogenetics”, to designate both its use of light and genetic expression strategies. The idea had been in the air for more than 30 years though, and “optogenetic” probes for sensing the brain's electrical and chemical activity had already been developed over the last decade. But the recent development of light-actuated channels and pumps has provided a sudden jolt of energy to the field.
A rapidly evolving field
Within the past 5 years, more than 12 channelrhodopsin variants and 4 light-driven hyperpolarizing pumps have been either cloned or engineered, and around 6 new genetically-encoded calcium sensors have been produced. The arsenal of optogenetic probes is not only improving, but also diversifying in order to serve a wide range of experimental requirements. In parallel, a new savoir-faire is developing to simultaneously deliver light and perform recordings in behaving animals. Companies have already sensed the emergence of a new market and it is easy to bet that “opto-electrodes” will be one of their top products very soon.
The ideas behind OpenOptogenetics.org
OpenOptogenetics.org (OO.o) is a new website which ambitions to provide an online collaborative resource for researcher using optogenetic. The goal of OO.o is to promote, facilitate and democratize the use of optogenetics. OO.o will provide background knowledge, an inventory of available optogenetic probes and their characteristics, tips and protocols, reviews of commercially available equipment and bibliographic references. OO.o is an open wiki, just like Wikipedia. Anyone can register and add content. Therefore OO.o is also an attempt to promote “open research”, where researchers make clear accounts of their methodology and share them with their colleagues without the intermediary of a publication.
OpenOptogenetics.org: a collaborative online resource for “optogeneticists”
Several laboratories are currently employing optogenetic approaches:
Bordeaux: the laboratories of Erwan Bezard (to dissect basal ganglia functions) and Christophe Mulle (CNRS 5091)
Paris: College de France: Vandecasteele Marie.