Researchers from Switzerland have developed an innovative gene regulation device operated via brain waves.
Researchers led by Martin Fussenegger, biotechnology and biomechanics professor of the Department of Biosystems at Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, developed a gene network that uses brain waves to control gene expression, or the conversion of genes into proteins. The technology has been successfully tested in human cells grown in the laboratory and in lab mice. The results were published in the journal «Nature Communications».
The device was operated with the help of an electronic headset, worn on the head and functioning as electroencephalogram recorder. The recorded brain waves were then analyzed and transmitted via Bluetooth to an electronic implant that generated an electromagnetic field and was placed inside the body. The implant was also equipped with a tiny LED lamp, which emitted light in the near-infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. This type of light was used because it is not harmful to human cells but at the same time can penetrate deep into tissues, which allows visual monitoring of the implant.
In accordance with one’s thoughts, brain waves caused the light of the implant to switch on or switch off, which, in turn, activated or deactivated certain genes in cells, leading them to produce more or less of a particular protein, in this case the SEAP. The experiments were conducted with the participation of volunteers and showed that the more focused they were in trying to switch on genes in mice with their thoughts, the greater the amount of the produced protein was.
“For the first time, we have been able to tap into human brainwaves, transfer them wirelessly to a gene network and regulate the expression of a gene depending on the type of thought. Being able to control gene expression via the power of thought is a dream that we’ve been chasing for over a decade,” said Dr. Fussenegger.
This impressive technology of gene regulation by the power of mind is still at an early stage, but it could lead to the development of more advanced methods in the future. According to Dr. Fussenegger, it is likely that someday such a mind-controlled implant could be used in the treatment of a number of neurological disorders.