How do we sense neurotransmitters in the CNS?

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When neurons in the brain are active, chemical neurotransmitters are being release into the synaptic cleft. These carry information and passes it onto the post-synapses. This then induces a variety of actions that tells the brain what to do next, the so-called, signal transduction pathways. Being able to ‘see’ these chemical neurotransmitters is important and significant. The chemical tools to sense them have many applications in studying neurological diseases and therapy. Here, I’ve summarized the major neurotransmitters that act as messengers, their corresponding neurological disease implicated if they were imbalance and the latest chemical detection methods available to sense them.

The efforts made for advancing chemical neurotransmitter sensing are tremendous and often is difficult, if not impossible without involving collaborative work on a multi-disciplinary scale. We know more about their underlying chemical photo properties, their sensing mechanism and their possible use in-vivo applications. Currently, most of these sensors are only compatible with analytical methods and commercialise to detect neurotransmitters that are present in fluid samples. Collective data on patients with abnormal levels of these neurotransmitters in correlation to their neurological disease will help advance clinical diagnostics.

Of course, chemical fluorescent- based sensing are far more compatible with the current imaging technologies. So far, very few publications have actually shown their applicability in-vitro and in-vivo situations. Therefore, a lot more has to be done to make this applicable to intact biological samples.

[1] Pradhan, T. et al. Chemical sensing of neurotransmitters. Chem. Soc. Rev. 43, 4684–713 (2014).

[2] Coskun, A. & Akkaya, E. U. Three-point recognition and selective fluorescence sensing of L-DOPA. Org. Lett. 6, 3107–9(2004).

© So you think you can grow crystals in a beaker, 2014.

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