Optogenetic control of nerve growth

Sci Rep. 2015 May 18:5:9669. doi: 10.1038/srep09669.


Due to the limited regenerative ability of neural tissue, a diverse set of biochemical and biophysical cues for increasing nerve growth has been investigated, including neurotrophic factors, topography, and electrical stimulation. In this report, we explore optogenetic control of neurite growth as a cell-specific alternative to electrical stimulation. By investigating a broad range of optical stimulation parameters on dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) expressing channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2), we identified conditions that enhance neurite outgrowth by three-fold as compared to unstimulated or wild-type (WT) controls. Furthermore, optogenetic stimulation of ChR2 expressing DRGs induces directional outgrowth in WT DRGs co-cultured within a 10 mm vicinity of the optically sensitive ganglia. This observed enhancement and polarization of neurite growth was accompanied by an increased expression of neural growth and brain derived neurotrophic factors (NGF, BDNF). This work highlights the potential for implementing optogenetics to drive nerve growth in specific cell populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Channelrhodopsins
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / radiation effects
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Light*
  • Mice
  • Nerve Growth Factors / genetics
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Nerve Regeneration*
  • Neurites / physiology
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Schwann Cells / physiology
  • Schwann Cells / radiation effects


  • Channelrhodopsins
  • Nerve Growth Factors