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The brain’s complexity and how its coordinated actions of billions of neurons shape our behavior and cognition have always fascinated me. So, I decided to go into neuroscience as a career and contribute to biomedical science.
Each day, hundreds of thousands of biomedical researchers around the world design and execute studies, with diverse trajectories and outcomes and where success is based largely on reproducibility. However, a large percentage of experiments using cell culture techniques have been labelled as irreproducible, with around 25 percent of all cell-line research described as either contaminated with other cells or mischaracterized in some way. In other words, if your kidney cancer cell isn’t really a kidney cancer line, then how will anyone else be able to reproduce your work?
Mitochondria are dynamic cellular organelles involved in ATP synthesis and in apoptotic mechanisms (programmed cell death). However, in addition to these classically known functions, recent studies at the NIH have deciphered another intriguing role for mitochondria in the development and plasticity of neurons.
Optogenetics, a new technology used to control brain activity with light, has revolutionized the field of neuroscience in the past decade. The combination of two powerful tools, genetics and optics, has provided both temporal and spatial acuity in understanding how the brain works in response to sensory and motor cues in the environment. At the recent NIH Research Festival symposium titled “Optogenetic approaches to investigating the nervous system,” fellows and scientists from the NIH community presented their research encompassing topics that make use of this approach to study different systems.