MedE Special Seminar. Dr. Ritchie Chen
Mapping and controlling the flow of information between the brain and body is critical both for understanding how the nervous system maintains homeostasis and for designing therapies for bioelectronic medicine. A formidable obstacle in studying brain-body connections is the lack of technologies to interface with neural circuits and organs without destructive surgery.
Here I will describe biohybrid technologies that fuse genetic tools with synthetic materials to enable nondestructive and precise access to cells and circuits. I will first highlight new tissue hydrogel chemistries for organ-wide visualization of single biomolecules and cells within fixed animal tissue and human clinical samples. I will then highlight two parallel yet complementary approaches for the remote control of cells with genetic specificity. I will demonstrate how the design of magnetic nanotransducers can enable rapid and remote control of deep brain circuits using alternating magnetic fields. I will then discuss the development of noninvasive optogenetics using the ultrapotent opsin ChRmine that enable control of neural circuits without the need for intracranial surgery. I will describe the application of noninvasive optogenetics to investigate interoceptive circuits along the heart-brain axis, which revealed a key role for heart rate in the regulation of adaptive behavior. Finally, I will discuss the impact of these findings in the context of future biohybrid materials and devices that will enable understanding of the physiological roles of specific cells, tissues and organs within intact biological systems.
About the speaker: Dr. Ritchie Chen received his BS in Bioengineering and Materials Science and Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently completing his postdoctoral research at Stanford University in the Bioengineering department with Prof. Karl Deisseroth. Ritchie's research bridges biomolecular engineering, nanotechnology, and systems neuroscience approaches to enable tools to map, modulate, and repair nervous system function. He is a recipient of a NIH Pathway to Independence Award, a Brain & Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Young Investigator Grant, and was listed as a Forbes 30 under 30 in Science.