Human protein sensitivity increased with “sonogenetics” ultrasound stimulation

February 11, 2022
Human protein sensitivity increased with “sonogenetics” ultrasound stimulation

Scientists from California’s Salk Institute for Biological Studies have developed an ingenious method to safely activate, and control mammalian cells located deep in the body – by using “sonogenetics,” a burst of ultrasound. Sonogenetics was used to activate human cell lines in vitro and brain cells inside living mice, and so paves the way toward non-invasive versions of deep brain stimulation, pacemakers, and insulin pumps.

When ultrasound waves similar to those used in medical sonograms initially failed to effect proteins in mammalian cells, Salk scientists set about screening almost 300 separate proteins to find one that would react to the specific ultrasound frequency.

Upon finding a protein called TRPA1 that did so, the scientists utilised gene therapy to add the genes for human TRPA1 to a specific group of neurons in the brains of living mice. When they then administered ultrasound to the mice, only the neurons with the TRPA1 genes were activated.

Salk associate professor, Dr. Sreekanth Chalasani, Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, said this gene functionality of TRPA1 could one day be used as a type of pacemaker for the heart, one that requires no implantation.

“Gene delivery techniques already exist for getting a new gene—such as TRPA1—into the human heart,” Professor Dr. Chalasani said. “If we can then use an external ultrasound device to activate those cells, which could really revolutionise pacemakers.”

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Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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