Brain is the most complex organ in humans, and it has been considered as the origin of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. According to reports, it contains more than 86 billion neurons and 85 billion glial cells. To better understand the connection and function between neurons and glia, it is urgent to develop novel tools.
A virus is a non-cellular structure composed of nucleic acid and proteins, while the viral vector refers to the genetically modified vector generated via genetic engineering. Its safety is guaranteed by completely or largely eliminate the pathogenic genes in the virus so that it can be widely used in neuroscience, metabolism, oncology, and other multidisciplinary research fields. Here, we focus on the application of viral vector systems in neuropsychiatric research.
Fig.1 Application of viral vectors in neuroscience research. (Wang, 2018)
There are three major goals for neuroscience research, namely, to understand, protect and mimic the brain. To achieve these goals, it is essential to combine multiple technologies, such as optogenetics, calcium imaging, genetic manipulation, and pharmacology. It is worth noting that viral vectors play an important role in these technologies. There are a series of viral vectors used in laboratories, such as adeno-associated virus (AAV), herpes simplex virus (HSV), lentivirus, adenovirus, and retrovirus. Using viral vectors, the location specificity, time specificity, and cell-type specificity of gene expression can be determined.
Neural labeling and tracing technology is the basis of neuroscience research. A variety of viral vectors have been developed for cell labeling. By using specific promoters and viral vectors, neuron labeling and manipulation at the cellular and subcellular levels can be achieved. What's more, the powerful ability to carry genes allows viral vectors to be used in gene therapy. Due to the high infection efficiency and low immunogenicity, AAV has been served as the preferred gene carrier for a variety of diseases,
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