Galit Pelled, Ph.D.


Director of Neroengineering division

Institute of Quantitative Health Science and Engineering

Department of Biomedical engineering, Radiology and Neuroscience

Michigan State University

East Lansing, Michigan

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Aquatic inspired neuromodulation

Major advances in molecular and synthetic biology have revolutionized the capability to control cell excitability in living organisms. Yet, the majority of the technologies available today that manipulate cellular function in a cell- and spatio-temporal-specific manner demand the use of optics, drugs, radio-wave heatingor ultrasound. The quest to identify genes responsible for controlling cellular function by electromagnetic fields (EMF) that penetrate deep tissue non-invasively is only in its infancy. To embark upon this challenge, we investigated the potential of an alternative and novel method to remotely control cellular function through the transmission of non-invasive, electromagnetic fields. While it is known that various aquatic species use electromagnetic fields for orientation and navigation, the cellular mechanism by which this is accomplished remains unknown. One of these species is the Kryptopterus bicirrhis (glass catfish). Using expression cloning in Xenopus laevis oocytes, we have identified a single gene from the K. bicirrhis that, once expressed in the oocytes, produces changes in the oocyte’s membrane current when wirelessly activated. Using bioinformatics approaches, we found that this gene is a putative membrane associated protein, and has never been characterized before in any other organism. We term this gene the electromagnetic perceptive gene (EPG).

We have expressed the EPG in mammalian cells, neuronal cultures and in the rat brain. Our data demonstrates that wireless activation of the EPG in neuronal culture results in significant changes in neuronal excitability. Moreover, the data shows that EPG can be expressed in a specific cellular population and in a specific location in the rodent brain. We anticipate that this discovery has the potential to transform the neuroscience field, by providing a tool that offers non-invasive, cellular-specific, temporal-specific and region-specific stimulation.


I have recently moved from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore to direct the Neuroengineering division at the Institute of Quantitative Health and Sciences (IQ) in Michigan State University. This division encompasses an interdisciplinary set of neuroscientist, computer scientists, biochemists and engineers. Together we work towards discovering fundamental principles of brain function and developing innovative diagnostic and therapeutic technologies. Our research interests span a wide range of experimental and theoretical approaches that include neuroimaging, neuronal computation and modeling, neuronanotechnology, neurophotonics, brain stimulation and neuromodulation, neuro-prostheses, brain-computer and brain-machine interfaces. My research focuses on understanding how injury changes neuronal connections, how neuromodulation impacts these changes, and how these changes affect recovery. We gain a comprehensive appreciation of neuroplasticity and how it translates into behavior by probing the system at the single neuron level all the way up to the whole organism level. Indeed, one of the characteristics that make my work unique is the multimodal approaches I employ. When we ask what happens in the rodent cortex after injury, we use intracellular electrophysiology to look at the single neuron level, we insert grids of electrode to map neuronal connections in vivo, we use functional MRI (fMRI) to detect changes in the whole-brain level, and we use a battery of behavioral tests to determine how injury effect cognitive, social and sensorimotor behavior. When we ask if neuromodulation after injury impacts recovery, we use light-sensitive channels (optogenetics) to increase or silence activity and non-invasive Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). When we wanted to probe a specific population of neurons that is involved in reshaping connections after injury we bioengineered cell specific neuronal markers that can report on neuronal activity. Furthermore, when we wanted to complement the neuromodulation arsenal with the development of a technology that will allow a non-invasive way for cellular, location and temporal specific neuromodulation, we researched and discovered a gene in fish that navigate according to the earth magnetic field. This unique gene which encodes to a protein that is sensitive to electromagnetic fields has never been characterized before and was termed electromagnetic perceptive gene (EPG). We anticipate that this novel technology can transform the field of neuromodulation and complement the neuromodulation methodologies arsenal. My research has been published in high impact-scientific journals, and I have been NIH funded continuously since 2005. My funding includes 4 R01s as the principal investigator among them the prestigious R01 NIH EUREKA award. In addition, I have established a high-field preclinical imaging center at Johns Hopkins/Kennedy Krieger Institute, which was supported by a $6.5M NIH High-End Instrumentation awards and now services over 100 investigators, and a preclinical behavioral core that was supported by KKI and NIH U54 “Intellectual Developmental Disabilities Research Center” (KKI). 

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