What if you didn’t need surgery to implant a pacemaker on a faulty heart? What if you could control your blood sugar levels without an injection of insulin, or mitigate the onset of a seizure without even pushing a button?
I and a team of scientists in my laboratory at the Salk Institute are tackling these challenges by developing a new technology known as sonogenetics, the ability to noninvasively control the activity of cells using sound.
From light to sound
I am a neuroscientist interested in understanding how the brain detects environmental changes and responds. Neuroscientists are always looking for ways to influence neurons in living brains so that we can analyze the outcome and understand both how that brain works and how to better treat brain disorders.
Creating these specific changes requires the development of new tools. For the last two decades the go-to tool for researchers in my field has been optogenetics, a technique in which engineered brain cells in animals are controlled with light. This process involves inserting an optic fiber deep within the animal’s brain to deliver light to the target region.
When these nerve cells are exposed to blue light, the light-sensitive protein is activated, allowing those brain cells to communicate with each other and modify the animal’s behavior. For example, animals with Parkinson’s disease can be cured of their involuntary tremors by shining light on brain cells that have been specially engineered making them light-sensitive. But the obvious drawback is that this procedure depends on surgically implanting a cable into the brain – a strategy that cannot be easily translated into people.
My goal had been to figure out how to manipulate the brain without using light.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
Thanks to Heinz V. Hoenen. Follow him on twitter: @HeinzVHoenen
News This Week
Silver and titanium nanomaterials present in wastewater may have toxic effects on crustaceans and fish cells
You may not always think about it when you do your laundry or flush the toilet; but whatever you eat, wear or apply on your skin ends up in wastewater and eventually reaches the [...]
Boston University researchers have developed a new, "intelligent" metamaterial – which costs less than ten dollars to build – that could revolutionize magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), making the entire MRI process faster, safer, and [...]
We can directly see the hidden world of atoms thanks to electron microscopes, first developed in the 1930s. Today, electron microscopes, which use beams of electrons to illuminate and magnify a sample, have become [...]
In her inaugural podcast, Jamilee interviews Frank Boehm of NanoApps Medical Inc and NanoApps Athletics Inc. From Jamilee's podcast: Welcome to the first episode of "In a Click". On todays show I chat with [...]
“We’ll have nanobots that… connect our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud. Our thinking will be a…. biological and non-biological hybrid.” Ray Kurzweil, TED 2014 UPDATE - October 30 2019 Since [...]
We humans have evolved a rich repertoire of communication, from gesture to sophisticated languages. All of these forms of communication link otherwise separate individuals in such a way that they can share and express [...]
Ultrasensitive nanoscale optical probes have been created by scientists from UC Santa Cruz, to observe the bioelectric activity of neurons and other excitable cells. This innovative readout technology could allow researchers to analyze how [...]
Advances made during recent clinical trials mean that those suffering from celiac disease may soon be able to reintroduce gluten back into their diet. This breakthrough is down to a progressive new treatment that [...]
A new way of editing the code of life could correct 89% of the errors in DNA that cause disease, say US scientists. The technology, called prime editing, has been described as a "genetic [...]
A research team of Ehime University paved a way to achieve unexplored III-V semiconductor nanostructures. They grew branched GaAs nanowires with a nontoxic Bi element employing characteristic structural modifications correlated with metallic droplets, as [...]
While many people love colorful photos of landscapes, flowers or rainbows, some biomedical researchers treasure vivid images on a much smaller scale – as tiny as one-thousandth the width of a human hair. To [...]
Energy is information. Lengthening the time during which a system is capable of retaining energy before losing it to the local environment is a key goal for the development of quantum information. This interval [...]
Just because a model catalyst effectively drives a reaction in a well-controlled environment doesn’t mean it will work as well under more practical conditions. For years, scientists have strived to predict catalysts’ performance. In [...]
Particles that are mere nanometers in size are at the forefront of scientific research today. They come in many different shapes: rods, spheres, cubes, vesicles, S-shaped worms and even donut-like rings. What makes them [...]