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BRInGing nano-pHoTonics into the brain

Project description

A novel optical approach for studying and treating the brain

Currently, optogenetics is employed to measure neuronal activity and study brain function. However, it requires genetically encoded proteins, limiting its translational applicability. The EU-funded NanoBRIGHT project is developing a novel technology based on the interaction of light with metallic nanostructures which will increase the range of physiological phenomena that can be controlled and monitored by light in vivo. This includes the modulation of the blood–brain barrier's permeability to allow pharmacological targeting of the brain, as well as the possibility to identify tumorigenic tissue without the need of a biopsy. The new approach will advance the treatment of pathological conditions including brain tumours, epilepsy and traumatic brain injuries.


NanoBRIGHT will develop a new approach to optically interface with the brain, referred to as “photonic-physiology”: a new technique with high-translational appeal that exploits light-metals interactions to interface with the brain, targeting specific diseases including brain tumors, epilepsy and traumatic brain injuries. This will allow to reach the long-term vision of developing novel cutting-edge optical approaches to study and treat pathological conditions of the brain without using genetically-encoded proteins, which represent the main limitation for optogenetic techniques currently employed to interface with the neural tissue.

The approach will be based on a unique science-enabled technology exploiting the spatial selectivity properties of multimodal tapered optical fibers to activate a subset of high-density plasmonic hotspots along the taper. The resulting implantable devices will establish a new approach to interface with brain, striving at:

1- Demonstrate the capability of photonics for detecting and treating pathological conditions of the brain without the use of genetically-encoded proteins. We plan to exploit SERS to differentiate between primary and secondary brain tumors and to outline new methods to study oxidative stress in epileptogenic tissue.

2- Upscaling the range of physiological phenomena that can be controlled by light in vivo beyond those achieved so far by genetically encoded proteins, including vasodilation to locally increase permeability of the blood-brain-barrier thus enhancing pharmacological delivery in well-targeted regions of brain tumors.

3-Proving that unconventional combination between light-matter interactions and photonic-physiology can be used to analyze comorbidities between different diseases, testing the influence of brain tumors on epilepsy or tumor influence on the electrical activity of nearby and distal neural cells.

Call for proposal


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Net EU contribution
€ 1 638 167,50
Via morego 30
16163 Genova

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Nord-Ovest Liguria Genova
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00

Participants (4)