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Focused Ultrasound Induced Blood-Brain Barrier Opening for Targeting Brain Structures and Evaluating Chemogenetic Neuromodulation

Jerzy O. Szablowski1, Manwal Harb1


Acoustically Targeted Chemogenetics (ATAC) allows for the noninvasive control of specific neural circuits. ATAC achieves such control through a combination of focused ultrasound (FUS) induced blood-brain barrier opening (FUS-BBBO), gene delivery with adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors, and activation of cellular signaling with engineered, chemogenetic, protein receptors and their cognate ligands. With ATAC, it is possible to transduce both large and small brain regions with millimeter precision using a single noninvasive ultrasound application. This transduction can later allow for a long-term, noninvasive, device-free neuromodulation in freely moving animals using a drug. Since FUS-BBBO, AAVs, and chemogenetics have been used in multiple animals, ATAC should also be scalable for the use in other animal species. This paper expands upon a previously published protocol and outlines how to optimize the gene delivery with FUS-BBBO to small brain regions with MRI-guidance but without a need for a complicated MRI-compatible FUS device. The protocol, also, describes the design of mouse targeting and restraint components that can be 3D-printed by any lab and can be easily modified for different species or custom equipment. To aid reproducibility, the protocol describes in detail how the microbubbles, AAVs, and venipuncture were used in ATAC development. Finally, an example data is shown to guide the preliminary investigations of studies utilizing ATAC.

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