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Tools for Analyzing and Repairing Biological Systems

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  • UserProfessor Ed Boyden, MIT World_link
  • ClockTuesday 04 August 2020, 15:00-17:00
  • HouseGoogle Meets.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Bram Lim.


This talk is open to all including non-members, subjected to availability. Please register by Sunday 02 August to receive the link for the online lecture.


To enable the understanding and repair of complex biological systems, such as the brain, we are creating novel optical tools that enable molecular-resolution maps of such systems, as well as technologies for observing and controlling high-speed physiological dynamics in such systems. First, we have developed a method for imaging specimens with nanoscale precision, by embedding them in a swellable polymer, homogenizing their mechanical properties, and exposing them to water – which causes them to expand manyfold isotropically. This method, which we call expansion microscopy (ExM), enables ordinary microscopes to do nanoscale imaging, in a multiplexed fashion – important, for example, for brain mapping. Second, we have developed a set of genetically-encoded reagents, known as optogenetic tools, that when expressed in specific neurons, enable their electrical activities to be precisely driven or silenced in response to millisecond timescale pulses of light. Finally, we are designing, and evolving, novel reagents, such as fluorescent voltage indicators and somatically targeted calcium indicators, to enable the imaging of fast physiological processes in 3-D with millisecond precision. In this way we aim to enable the systematic mapping, control, and dynamical observation of complex biological systems like the brain.

Speaker profile:

Professor Ed Boyden is the Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology at MIT , an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the MIT McGovern Institute, and professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Media Arts and Sciences, and Biological Engineering at MIT . Prof Boyden received his PhD in neurosciences from Stanford University as a Hertz Fellow, working in the labs of Jennifer Raymond and Richard Tsien, where he discovered the molecular mechanisms used to store a memory are determined by the content to be learned. In parallel to his PhD, as an independent side project, he co-invented optogenetic control of neurons, which is now used throughout neuroscience. Prof Boyden has received numerous awards and accolades for his immense contribution to neural science and bioengineering, including the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2016), the Croonian Medal (2019) and the Wilhelm Exner Medal (2020). He now leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which develops tools for analyzing and repairing complex biological systems such as the brain. These technologies include expansion microscopy and optogenetic tools, which he will share during his talk.

This talk is part of the SciSoc – Cambridge University Scientific Society series.

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