A promising strategy for helping stroke patients recover -- transplanting neural progenitor cells to restore lost functions -- demands a lot of those cells. They're supposed to know how to integrate into a mature but damaged brain. The cells need help. To provide that help, researchers have developed an "optochemogenetics" approach that modifies a widely used neuroscience tool. The stimulation that transplanted cells need to flourish comes from light, generated within the brain. In a mouse model of stroke, neural progenitor cells received light stimulation, which promoted functional recovery in the mice. Neuroscience aficionados may be familiar with optogenetics, which allows scientists to study the brain conveniently, activating or inhibiting groups of neurons at the flip of a switch. (Mice with fiber optic cables attached to their heads can be found in many labs.) The researchers wanted to remove the cable -- that is, figure out how to selectively stimulate brain cells non-invasively.
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