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Medical Technology: Near Infrared Light Shines On Missing Links In Memory Flow

Update Date: Feb 09, 2017 08:33 AM EST

In the latest in medical technology, researchers from Hiroshima University are using near infrared light to shine on the missing links in memory flow. This laser technique enables the researchers to investigate and understand the mechanisms involved in memory loss conditions and develop possible treatments for the condition.

In order to understand how memory flows, the team of researchers developed this new laser technique to delve into the process of neurotransmission. The new laser technique using near infrared light is the brainchild of Professor Manabu Abe of the Department of Chemistry at Hiroshima University.

Not much is known about neurotransmission. What researchers currently know is that in order for the successful transmission of memory, it involves the participation of neurotransmitters and neurons. In addition, the gap that occurs when memory breakdowns are hard to pinpoint and much harder to try rebuilding it.

What researchers do know is that functioning memory requires neurotransmitters such as glutamate. Another thing researchers know for sure is that calcium concentration increases the release of glutamate. Much is not known about these chemical messengers and the study, published in the journal ACS Omega, is to pinpoint the sites where these chemical messengers are in order to understand the neurotransmission process.

The technique developed by Professor Abe and his team of researchers involves two phases. The first phase or the Capture Phase involves the use of carrier molecules. Sprayed to the body, these carrier molecules diffuse into neuron cells.

Upon "capturing" the neuron cells, they hold into place any calcium present and favorably bond with it. But the problem with the first phase is that researchers have no way of knowing when the carrier molecules have successfully done its job.

To detect the synthesized molecules, the researchers incorporated chromophores to the carrier molecules. These chromophores are essentially light sensitive antennae that enable the carrier molecules to have light-absorbing properties.

The second phase or the Release Phase uses near infrared light to breakdown the carrier molecules via a two-photon emission. Near infrared light which is projected through lasers is useful not only in breaking down the carrier molecule but also in not harming the living organism.

The study found that when near infrared light at the neuron cells where the carrier molecules are attached, the light-sensitive carrier molecules broke down thus causing then to shed their electrically charged calcium cation. And since calcium is a chemical messenger in neurotransmission, the sites where the higher charge was located pinpointed the neurotransmitter production areas.

With this discovery of the sites of neurotransmission, the researchers are hoping to develop treatments that will able to target these sites and reduce or prevent memory loss conditions. Furthermore, the results of the study also help in solving some of the mysteries involved in neurotransmission and memory flow.

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