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Front. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2017.00663

And then there was light: Perspectives of Optogenetics for Deep Brain Stimulation and Neuromodulation

 Jean Delbeke1,  Luis Hoffman2, Katrien Mols2, 3, Dries Braeken3 and  Dimiter Prodanov2, 4*
  • 1Department of Neurology, Institute of Neuroscience, Ghent University, Belgium
  • 2Neuroelectronics Research Flanders, Belgium
  • 3Life Science and Imaging, Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC), Belgium
  • 4Environment Health and Safety, Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC), Belgium

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) has evolved into a well-accepted ‘add-on’ treatment for patients with severe Parkinson’s disease as well as for other chronic neurological conditions.
The focal action of electrical stimulation can yield better responses and it exposes the patient to fewer side effects compared to pharmaceuticals distributed throughout the body towards the brain.
On the other hand, the current practice of DBS is hampered by the relatively coarse level of neuromodulation it can provide.
Optogenetics, in contrast, offers the perspective of much more selective actions on the various physiological structures, provided that the stimulated cells are rendered sensitive to the action of light.
Optogenetics has experienced tremendous progress since its first \textit{in vivo} applications about 10 years ago.
Recent advancements of viral vector technology for gene transfer substantially reduce vector-associated cytotoxicity and immune responses.
This brings about the possibility to transfer this technology into the clinic as a possible alternative to DBS and neuromodulation.
New paths could be opened towards a rich panel of clinical applications.
Some technical issues still limit the long term use in humans but realistic perspectives quickly emerge. Despite a rapid accumulation of observations about patho-physiological mechanisms, it is still mostly serendipity and empiric adjustments that dictate clinical practice while more efficient logically designed interventions remain rather exceptional. Interestingly, it is also very much the technology developed around optogenetics that offers the most promising tools to fill in the existing knowledge gaps about brain function in health and disease.
The present review examines Parkinson's disease and refractory epilepsy as use cases for possible optogenetic stimulation therapies.

Keywords: viral vectors, biosafety, optogoenetics, Deep Brain Stimulation, Neural Prosthesis, Epilepsy, Parkinson Disease, Neuromodulation

Received: 31 May 2017; Accepted: 14 Nov 2017.

Edited by:

Diana Deca, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

Reviewed by:

Stefano Vassanelli, Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy
Anton Ilango, University of Magdeburg, Germany  

Copyright: © 2017 Delbeke, Hoffman, Mols, Braeken and Prodanov. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Dimiter Prodanov, PRODANOV., Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC), Environment Health and Safety, Kapeldreef 75, Kapeldreef 75, Leuven, 3001, Non-U.S., Belgium, dimiterpp@gmail.com