Optical Manipulation May Be Able To Erase Fearful Memories

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Takuya Takahashi M.D. Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Physiology
Yokohama City University
Graduate School of Medicine
Yokohama Japan

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: A number of patients suffer from traumatic fear memories (eg. PTSD). At this point, there exists no treatment to control aversive fear memories.

People can form aversive fear memory from traumatic events such as disasters and accidents. These fear memories can induce depression and anxiety disorders (eg. panic disorders). Therefore, it is crucial to understand the molecular mechanism underlying fear memory formation and this could lead to the invention of novel technology to control fear memories.

We have previously reported that the formation of fear memory modifies synapses by the incorporation of AMPA receptors at hippocampus. Further, this molecular events are required for the fear memory formation (Mitsushima et al. PNAS 2011, Mitsushima et al. Nature Communications 2013).

Here, we invented the novel technology to erase fear memory by the optical manipulation of AMPA receptor, an important molecule at glutamatergic synapses.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: In this study, we have developed novel technology to erase fear memory by the optical manipulation of AMPA receptors. The monoclonal antibody to AMPA receptors was labelled with a photosensitizer, eosin. This labelled antibody inactivates the target AMPA receptors by producing reactive oxygen. We injected these labelled antibody into mouse hippocampus and fear-conditioned animals. After the exposure of lights to the injected area guided by the cannula, the once acquired fear memory was erased. This novel technology could shed the lights on the treatment of patients with traumatic memories.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: There are a lot of diseases which relate to AMPA receptors. One potential other target of our technology than PTSD is pain control. Previous studies reported that chronic pain is relevant to the increase of AMPA receptors in the spinal cord. Spinal cord is easy to access cannula, it might be doable to apply our technology to control chronic pain in human.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This study was conducted in collaboration with Prof. Takeharu Nagai at Osaka University and Prof. Hamakubo at University of Tokyo.

Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology of the Japan Science and Technology Agency

Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology from the Japan Science and Technology Agency

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Kiwamu Takemoto, Hiroko Iwanari, Hirobumi Tada, Kumiko Suyama, Akane Sano, Takeharu Nagai, Takao Hamakubo, Takuya Takahashi. Optical inactivation of synaptic AMPA receptors erases fear memory. Nature Biotechnology, 2016; 35 (1): 38 DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3710

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Last Updated on February 24, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD