Investigations of laser-induced neuronal guidance
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One of the long-standing goals of neuroscience has been to look for ways in which to control neuronal growth. It has been discovered recently that placing a focused near-infrared laser spot at the leading edge of a neuronal growth cone elicits a turn in the direction of the laser spot [Ehrlicher et al., PNAS 99: 16024 (2002)]. Optical guidance has the advantage over conventional neuronal guidance methods that neither steric strain nor chemical gradients are necessary to its functionality. Although the success of optical guidance suggests potential therapeutic applications, our first priority is to decipher the mechanism underlying the phenomenon in order better to understand it. Several hypotheses are presented as well as preliminary evidence supporting biased diffusion as an appropriate model for the system.