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LED Experiment

LED Experiment

An experiment involving mice and miniature LEDs could be the first step toward a radical new treatment for chronic constipation. Researchers in the United States and Australia have shown that LEDs that emit blue light can trigger bowel movements. Optogenetics – using light to stimulate living cells – was first used with the central nervous system in the brain and is now being explored in another part of the body with an independent nervous system, the gastrointestinal tract. The Senior Investigator, Professor Nick Spencer of Flinders University speculated that this delay “could be because delivering light to internal organs in conscious animals has proven to be challenging.”
The challenge in this case involved not only the delivery of light to an awkward spot, but making sure the spot was receptive to the light. To achieve this, the mice were genetically engineered so that a light sensitive protein from algae developed in the neurons which cause contractions of the colon that, as Dr Spencer put it, propel “ingested content through the intestine.”
The wirelessly controlled LEDs successfully activated these neurons and produced the desired result. “The next part of our research will be to demonstrate that the same increases in colonic transit can be seen in nontransgenic animals,” said Dr Spencer.
This research could ultimately prove useful for the treatment of intractable constipation and pain. It certainly is an unforeseen application of LED light that is only made possible by the extraordinary flexibility of a light source that needs minimal power input and generates little heat.

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