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A flash of light changes cell activity — and understanding of disease

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With a milliseconds-long flash of blue light, Yale University researchers regulated a critical type of signaling molecule within cell membranes, another illustration of the power of light-based techniques to manipulate cell functions and thus to study mechanisms of disease.

One of the most innovative new research approaches of recent years is called optogenetics or the use of genetically encoded probes to make cell functions sensitive to light. The new study, published the week of July 30 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is one of the first to use light to regulate metabolic activity in the membranes of cells.

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