(Oct. 8, 2018) -- It’s about the size of a dinner table; yet, one day may influence conversations held around the kitchen table. This is what excites researchers at UTSA as they anticipate the arrival of a state-of-the-art microscope. This device, known to a very select few, as a two-photon holographic microscope, will be used to write commands directly into neurons, including human, and get us closer to understand disorders such as Autism, which affects so many families in the United States today.
“It’s the Bentley of microscopes,” says Fidel Santamaria, an associate professor in the department of biology and computational neuroscientist at UTSA. “It’s built by hand, piece by piece.”
According to Santamaria, there are about two dozen of these microscopes in the world. The National Science Foundation and UTSA awarded close to $840,000 towards the technology. One main reason UTSA won is because the team, assembled by Santamaria, that will have access to the device is diverse, spanning a broad range of topics across multiple disciplines, with neuroscience the main focus.
It is estimated that a single neuron has about 10,000 synapses to communicate with another neuron, and yet much neuroscience is still focused on stimulating larger regions of the brain, known as bulk stimulation. According to Santamaria, this is a method with limitations that the new microscope will be able to address.
“In our case, we will have microscopic precision to activate specific pathways in the brain. Only when we have control and know the type of information that we are ‘writing in’ the circuitry of the brain and ‘read out’ the activity of the neurons, then we will be able to truly understand how the nervous system works,” says Santamaria.
In two-photon holographic microscopy, a powerful laser is used to project a movie in 3D of the researcher-programmed neural stimulation (or inputs) unto networks of neurons in living tissue. Simultaneously, a second laser is used to record the response of the neurons to this stimulation. Through this process, it will then be possible to determine how the nervous system, in health and disease, transforms inputs-into-outputs.
Obtaining this microscope required a multi-disciplinary team across the College of Science and Engineering. Santamaria collaborated with Gabriela Romero Uribe, from biomedical engineering, to secure the winning grant. The activities of this award will promote multi-disciplinary science communication proficiency of undergraduate and graduate students at UTSA. There will be opportunities for students to understand state-of-the-art microscopy techniques and build multi-media accessible information to be made available to the general public. The device will be a catalyst to promote interactions among groups across campus and serve other initiatives such as the Brain Health Consortium of UTSA.
This new technology will help understand how the contribution of incorrect wiring impacts the function of certain regions of the brain.
“We can activate the connections between neurons, known as synapses. More importantly, we can train neurons to respond to a specific pattern of synaptic activity. In that way, writing in a memory into the circuit,” says Santamaria.
UTSA is ranked among the nation’s top five young universities, according to Times Higher Education.
Visit Fidel Santamaria’s lab to learn more about an upcoming international symposium he is co-organizing taking place in San Antonio, where thought leaders will gather to develop new theories on brain function.
Learn more about the UTSA Neurosciences Institute.
Learn more about the UTSA Brain Health Consortium.
Learn more about Gabriela Uribe’s work.
Through the month of February, the UTSA community is invited to join student organizations, colleges and departments at events that commemorate the African American people, places and events that have paved the way for racial equality.Various locations
Diploma Dash is a fast, certified 5k course for runners and a scenic route around Main Campus for walkers, strollers and dogs! There are individual and team prizes. Benefits UTSA students through the UTSA Alumni Association scholarship program.UTSA Main Campus
Enjoy music, food and socializing during this fundraising event benefiting the San Antonio Symphony League for the Youth Concert Series and the ITC for its ongoing educational mission.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
UTSA Libraries will host Robert Rico, M.P.A., Department of Criminal Justice, for his presentation "Restorative Justice: A Relational Approach to Civic Discourse." Pizza will be provided to students while supplies last.Buena Vista Street Building (BVB 2.309), Downtown Campus
Spend an evening stirring your curiosity during these monthly talks featuring some of UTSA’s most renowned faculty, and learn how the latest research in their fields applies to our daily lives. This month's speaker is Francine Romero, UTSA associate professor and associate dean of the College of Public Policy.The Historic Guadalupe Theatre, 1301 Guadalupe St., San Antonio
Meet with 60+ representatives from Texas and out-of-state schools to get information on becoming a competitive health professions applicant and information about the application and transition process.Student Union Denman Ballroom (SU 2.01.28), Main Campus
UTSA master's of fine arts student Lauren Riojas-Fitzpatrick showcases her thesis through an art exhibit.Terminal 136, 136 Blue Star, San Antonio
Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni will roll up their sleeves to volunteer at nearly 20 service agencies throughout San Antonio.Convocation Center, Main Campus and service projects throughout San Antonio
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