Brown Lab develops simple, precise method for delivering AAVs in imaging experiments

Adeno-associated viruses (AAV) are used in a wide array of experiments to manipulate gene expression in cells. They can be used to drive the the expression of a range of useful proteins, such as light-based reporters of neural activity, or proteins that allow for the careful control of neural activity. However, conventional ways to deliver AAVs in a minimally damaging and spatially precise manner can present significant challenges, especially in imaging experiments.

imageTo address these issues, members of Dr. Craig Brown’s lab developed a new, simple method for delivering commercially available AAVs by optically perforating small blood vessels in the brain. Post-doctoral fellows Patrick Reeson (pictured, left) and Roobina Boghozian, research assistant Ana-Paula Cote, and Dr. Brown (pictured, right) have since published their new approach in Cell Reports Methods.

craigbrown2021_220x160“One lingering problem for labs that use multi-photon microscopy to image or activate AAV-altered cells was the delivery method,” says first-author Patrick Reeson. “Traditional approaches are either damaging, lack spatial precision, or require specialized equipment or reagents.”

In their method, the Brown Lab both intravenously inject commercially available AAVs and perforate capillaries in the cortex with a laser. Combined, this allows them to deliver the viral vectors with ultra-sparse, titrate-able, and micron-level precision and with relatively little inflammation or tissue damage.

“This technique should be very useful to people in the imaging field, especially those studying of cell types and circuits in the cortex” says Dr. Brown.