Optoelectronic control of single cells using organic photocapacitors

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Science Advances  05 Apr 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 4, eaav5265
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav5265


Optical control of the electrophysiology of single cells can be a powerful tool for biomedical research and technology. Here, we report organic electrolytic photocapacitors (OEPCs), devices that function as extracellular capacitive electrodes for stimulating cells. OEPCs consist of transparent conductor layers covered with a donor-acceptor bilayer of organic photoconductors. This device produces an open-circuit voltage in a physiological solution of 330 mV upon illumination using light in a tissue transparency window of 630 to 660 nm. We have performed electrophysiological recordings on Xenopus laevis oocytes, finding rapid (time constants, 50 μs to 5 ms) photoinduced transient changes in the range of 20 to 110 mV. We measure photoinduced opening of potassium channels, conclusively proving that the OEPC effectively depolarizes the cell membrane. Our results demonstrate that the OEPC can be a versatile nongenetic technique for optical manipulation of electrophysiology and currently represents one of the simplest and most stable and efficient optical stimulation solutions.

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