This is How To Control Genes With Your Thoughts

Thoughts control a near-infrared LED, which starts the production of a molecule in a reaction chamber. Image: Martin Fussenegger et al., ETH Zurich

Scientists have developed a novel method which enables thought-specific brainwaves to control the conversion of genes into proteins.

Martin Fussenegger, Professor of Biotechnology and Bioengineering at the Department of Biosystems (D-BSSE) in Basel, explains:

“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.”

A source of inspiration for the new thought-controlled gene regulation system was the game Mindflex, where the player wears a special headset with a sensor on the forehead which records brainwaves.

The registered electroencephalogram (EEG) is then transferred into the playing environment. The EEG controls a fan that enables a small ball to be thought-guided through an obstacle course.

The system, which the Basel-based bioengineers presented in the journal Nature Communications, also makes use of an EEG headset.

The recorded brainwaves are analysed and wirelessly transmitted via Bluetooth to a controller, which in turn controls a field generator which generates an electromagnetic field. This supplies an implant with an induction current.

A light then goes on in the implant, an integrated LED lamp which emits light in the near-infrared range and illuminates a culture chamber containing genetically modified cells.

When the near-infrared light illuminates the cells, they start to produce the desired protein.

The implant was initially tested in cell cultures and mice, and controlled by the thoughts of various test subjects.

Fussenegger hopes that a thought-controlled implant could one day help to combat neurological diseases such as chronic headaches, back pain and epilepsy, by detecting specific brainwaves at an early stage and triggering and controlling the creation of certain agents in the implant at exactly the right time.

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