Photonics research lies behind some of the most significant technological advancements of today, but there are few areas where its impact is felt more keenly than in the field of photonics-based medical therapies.
The human toll of brain disorders in Europe is enormous, with an estimated 83 million people affected  and an estimated total cost of €798 billion . This is one of the great healthcare challenges facing societies across the EU and the world at large. This problem is expected to worsen significantly as populations age.
NEUROPA is an EU-funded project which aims to combine cutting-edge research from the new field of phytoptogenetics ultra-short pulse laser technology, unlocking new non-invasive treatment options for the long-term alleviation of brain dysfunction.
The NEUROPA project will develop a novel non-invasive approaches to treatments. The system we create will modulate long-term activity in specific areas of the brain, particularly those implicated in brain disorders such as Huntington’s Disease (HD) and cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).
We aim to control how genes express themselves in the brain, especially those that could allow the brain’s neuronal networks to be adapted and reshaped. Other developments, such as in the field of viral engineering, will enable phytochrome expression in the brain to be altered without resorting to direct brain injection or other invasive treatments. New delivery systems, such as those targeting specific brain regions and cell-specific genes, will be able to influence neurons’ behavior in a variety of ways.
NEUROPA aims to be at the forefront of developing widespread and accessible photonic treatment systems that are not only effective, but also mobile, portable, reliable and affordable.
The treatments developed at NEUROPA will, it is hoped, allow practitioners to accurately and dynamically control specific brain networks in different states of dysfunction, without the need to opt for invasive and potentially dangerous treatments.
Cutting-Edge Research Meets Tech
Phytoptogenetics represents a new arrival to the worlds of both research and technology. At NEUROPA, we intend to develop a new class of phytochrome actuators that will be activated by pulsed laser at 1000-1700nm wavelengths, enabling us to selectively control gene expression and influence long-term changes in the brain’s neuronal network.
The bi-stable nature of phytochromes will enable us to control the degree and duration of their activation.
- AAV-Mediated Gene Delivery
Advances in AAV-mediated gene delivery will deliver engineered AAVs-encoded phytochromes via intravenous infusion. This will produce widespread phytochrome expression in the brain. We will also design a new set of AAVs to target the cortex via intranasal instillation.
- Diffusion Wave Spectroscopy
This technology will enable us to monitor non-invasively neuronal activity in the brain, complementing the interactive light-based control over phytochromes that phytoptogenetics unlocks.
 Source: Neurological Disorders: Public Health Challenges. World Health Organization
 Source: European Brain Council. The economic cost of brain disorders in Europe. Eur J Neurol. 2012
- Aston University, Birmingham, UK
- Universitaet Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany
- University of Oulu, Oulun Yliopisto, Oulu, Finland
- Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
- Pharmacoidea, Szeged, Hungary
- Sorbonne Université, Paris, France
- DLM Consultancy Services, Edinburgh, Scotland
European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme:
Future and Emerging Technologies grant agreement No. 713140.