Be it photosynthesis or our sense of vision – in nature, light controls a number of fundamental processes. Optogenetics – a new fundamental technology consisting of optics and genetic engineering – adopts methods from both areas. The goal is to use these methods for progress in biomedical sciences and other areas.
Controlling body functions using light
Light pulses can trigger reactions in biological tissue, and thus control a number of different processes. Muscle contractions, nerve impulses or certain intermediate metabolic products can be induced. These mechanisms are the basis for many new applications in biomedical sciences, robotics and biotechnology. First studies have already confirmed promising approaches, for example for improving neurological implants.
Interdisciplinary dialogue as a key to success
In order to exploit the numerous possibilities of optogenetics, close cooperation between diverse branches of studies is necessary – from molecular biology to laser physics. Through an intensive dialogue between research, economy, the public and politics, fundamental knowledge from the laboratory could be more quickly transferred to innovative processes and products the benefit of the society. Against this background, the LZH has initiated the “Innovation Forum Optogenetics – Technologies and Potential”.
BMBF program “SMEs first”
With the ten-point program “SMEs first”, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to generate new ideas and trend-setting applications based on current research results. The “Innovation forums for medium-sized businesses” are a central component for this.
From the 99 project sketches from the first application round of the program “Innovation forums for medium-sized businesses”, the BMBF asked 21 to submit a project proposal, among them the LZH. “We are proud to be able to expand our concept in a proposal,” explains Dr. Dag Heinemann, Head of the Biophotonics Group at the LZH.