Francis Pham

By William & Mary

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Optogenetic Silencing of pre-Bötzinger Neurons of Mice 

Breathing is often studied in a brain slice preparation in vitro. While this offers valuable data, you cannot study the interactions between the neural basis of breathing and muscles such as the diaphragm. By using an optogenetic approach, we are able to study breathing in the mouse in vivo. Optogenetics is a technique that utilizes light-activated proteins to modulate cellular behavior and ultimately physical behavior. For this project, we use viral technology to integrate genes for halorhodopsin, a light activated chloride pump, into a population of neurons known as the pre-Bötzinger complex (preBötC). This region is known for contributing to the rhythm of inspiratory activity. Then, we insert fiber optics to the preBötC so that we can stimulate it with light. This should result in inhibition of the preBötC population and a change in respiratory activity. To measure this change, we will use a plethysmograph which records ventilation changes.

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