Controlling gene expression with light may lead to disease treatments

Tissue engineering Huang et al
Near-infrared light is used to precisely engineer stem cells into tissue. Credit: Peter Allen Illustration.

Researchers in UC Santa Barbara’s departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology have gotten a step closer to unlocking the secrets of tissue morphology with a method of three-dimensional culturing of embryonic stem cells using light.

Similar to other work in the field of optogenetics — which largely focuses neurological disorders and activity in living organisms, leading to insights into diseases and conditions such as Parkinson’s and drug addiction — this new method relies on light to control gene expression.

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“Near-infrared light has better tissue penetration that is useful when the sample becomes thick,” explained lead author Xiao Huang at, who conducted this study as a doctoral student at UCSB. In addition to enhanced penetration — up to 10 cm deep — the light can be focused tightly to specific areas.

The fine control over cell development provided by this method also allows for the three-dimensional culture of tissues and organs from embryonic stem cells for a variety of applications. Engineered tissues can be used for therapeutic purposes, including replacements for organs and tissues that have been destroyed due to injury or disease. They can be used to give insight into the body’s response to toxins and therapeutic agents.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: An Orchestrated Process

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