Olfactory Circuit Labeling
Characterizing the brain’s neural connectome is a major scientific challenge: billions of neurons connected to each other via synapses are organized into ensembles containing trillions of synaptic connections to create functional circuits that process specific kinds of information. Methods to image these connected circuits have employed certain lectins and viruses that traverse through neural circuits either trans-synaptically or trans-neuronally. However, both lectins and viruses suffer from the problem of toxicity, non-specificity and slow propagation. Interestingly, lectin or virus entry into a neuron is facilitated by their interactions with sugars or receptors present on a neuron’s cell surface. In my research project I tried to exploit this sugar-guided movement between connected neurons by designing a small molecular tracer of neural circuitry.