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While scientists have a variety of tools on hand to monitor and manipulate living brains, they still lack the ability to observe how large numbers of individual neurons operate in real time. Now, researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have developed a remarkable technology, published in the journal Science, that illuminates neurons just as they fire off. The technology has already allowed the team to investigate the activity within the brains of mice, flies, and zebrafish.

 

The technology pairs a high-brightness fluorescent dye with a special protein that can be genetically introduced into the animals being studied. The injected dye pairs up with the protein, which is made to be produced by neurons, and the dye lights up whenever the neuron is active. The intensity of the glow is proportional to the voltage across the cell and individual neural cells can be seen blinking under the microscope as they do their routine work.

The Howard Hughes researchers are already making Voltron available to other scientists and they hope to improve it further by making it compatible with two-photon imaging, a high-resolution imaging technique. Currently Voltron only works with light-sheet and other more conventional optical microscopes.

According to iData Research, one of the major market drivers for neurological devices is the patient and physicians demand for minimally invasive procedures. This has been driving the growth in interventional neuroradiology and neuroendoscopy. This has led to procedural growth in endovascular embolization treatments and a decline in aneurysm clipping procedures treatments. Access devices are becoming increasingly technologically advanced and various embolization devices have been released in recent years.

“Our philosophy is to make the tools we develop as broadly available as possible, as soon as possible,” Schreiter says.

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For Further Information

More on the neurological device market can be found in a series of reports published by iData entitled the U.S. Market Report Suite for Neurological  Devices