A synthetic biology approach to shed light onto the black box of the brain

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Yagiz Alp Aksoy, Suja Mohammed, Paul Pilowsky

Australian School of Advanced Medicine, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, Australia

Neurons play a crucial role in the regulation of cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory systems yet functional roles of different neuronal phenotypes remain unclear. In order to elucidate mechanisms underlying many neurological and cardiovascular disorders, a better understanding of the functional and the physiological role of specific neurons is crucial. Here we describe an entirely novel synthetic biology approach for selectively investigating the identification, function and regulation of different types of neurons by expressing genes encoding fluorescent proteins, ribosome inactivating proteins and light-activated ion channels under the control of synthetically engineered neuron-specific promoters. By engineering synthetic promoters This combined approach has broad applicability and offers a novel strategy to better understand the underlying mechanisms of any cells in any system. A key advantage of the approach that we are outlining here is that we combine targeted cell death and optogenetic stimulation / inhibition approaches using a neuron-specific promoter system that targets cells on the basis of particular genes that they express. This will lead to the development of a toolkit that will enable phenotype-specific knockout of cell groups in vivo; this is a long sought after goal in neuroscience research.