Lighting the Way at OptoAus20

21 Feb,2020

Lighting the Way at OptoAus20

Optogenetics is a rapidly evolving research technology, with an increasing number of highly-cited publications, licensed patents and now two clinical trials employing the tool in some way. A technique that uses light to control cells in tissue, optogenetics has a myriad of applications and holds great promise in both research and clinical settings.

With a growing Australian optogenetics research community, Optogenetics Australia was established to support the application and development of optogenetics and to translate their findings into benefits for the academic research community and beyond.

The participants of the Optogenetics Australia 1st Hands-On Workshop
The participants of the Optogenetics Australia 1st Hands-On Workshop

Led by ARMI research group leader Dr Harald Janovjak, the nascent network has already created a budding, nation-spanning directory to help scientists connect with one another. As such, ARMI is proud to have supported Optogenetics Australia’s first major milestone by helping host the 1st Hands-On Workshop earlier this month.

The two-day workshop brought together some of Australia’s leading scientists from different research areas but all utilising optogenetics in their work, hoping to encourage the sharing of ideas and the fostering of new collaborations in this multidisciplinary field. The first day began with talks focussed on emerging optogenetics research, particularly in neuroscience.  There was also a focus on the development of novel optogenetics tools ranging from animal model applications to engineering protein receptors.

Dr Harald Janovjak presenting
Dr Harald Janovjak presenting his work

The “hands-on” component of the workshop took place on Day 2, with three modules designed to engage attendees on a more in-depth technical level, taking them out of the meeting room and into the ARMI labs. These included exploring designing non-neuronal optogenetic tools, the optogenetic manipulation of cell signalling ex vivo and in vivo wireless optogenetics.

PhD student Dean Panagiotidis, with a collaborative research project between the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental HealthMonash University and the University of Newcastle, found the workshop highly valuable. “I just started my PhD two months ago, and optogenetics is a potentially powerful and relatively new tool I could use to interrogate my PhD topic. While I haven’t actually done any optogenetics yet myself, the hands-on modules helped with what I might need to do to troubleshoot problems that I may run into. The interactive activities prompted working in teams and helped form a better understanding of what was being taught,” said Dean.

He added, “My ethos with science is that sharing information, whether practical or general, such as what has worked for various labs in their experience, is undeniably critical for impactful research. This workshop was a great opportunity as a forum to chat to different researchers, and also fosters new ideas and prevents others making the same mistakes previous researchers have made when setting up the technique in their labs.”

For the first meeting of Optogenetics Australia, the workshop was a resounding triumph! A huge congratulations to the Workshop organisers who worked tirelessly to ensure its success. It was exciting to witness the collaborative and nurturing nature of the workshop, and a privilege to facilitate this meeting of dedicated scientists diving head-first into boundary-pushing science.

More information

Optogenetics Australia was established to support the application and development of optogenetics and deliver benefits of the technology to research in academia and industry in Australia. For more information, visit their website.

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