Leveraging Optogenetic-Based Neurovascular Circuit Characterization for Repair
Nervous System Diseases
Optogenetic techniques are a powerful tool for determining the role of individual functional components within complex neural circuits. By genetically targeting specific cell types, neural mechanisms can be actively manipulated to gain a better understanding of their origin and function, both in health and disease. The potential of optogenetics is not limited to answering biological questions, as it is also a promising therapeutic approach for neurological diseases. An important prerequisite for this approach is to have an identified target with a uniquely defined role within a given neural circuit. Here, we examine the retinal neurovascular unit, a circuit that incorporates neurons and vascular cells to control blood flow in the retina. We highlight the role of a specific cell type, the cholinergic amacrine cell, in modulating vascular cells, and demonstrate how this can be targeted and controlled with optogenetics. A better understanding of these mechanisms will not only extend our understanding of neurovascular interactions in the brain, but ultimately may also provide new targets to treat vision loss in a variety of retinal diseases.