Optogenetics

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This new science sounds like something out of science-fiction, but it could be a reality soon.

With a little bit of creative thinking and a few science fiction parallels, you will quickly understand why Optogenetics is one of the most exciting areas of science and medicine.

On the surface, Optogenetics could allow humans to use a remote control to control our brains.

How? By using light.

Through this “light controller,” you could press a button to put yourself to sleep instantly. If you get injured, you could turn off the pain receptors in your brain with the push of another button on the controller. Or use your controller to control the different motor functions of your body. 

Optogenetics is the science of using light to control the behavior of cells. At the moment, it is one of the most rapidly growing fields of applied research. The most exciting aspect of the technology promises to let us use different frequencies to control the brain.

The cells in question, are neurons in this case. Shelly Fan of Singularity Hub describes it as “A brilliant mind-meld of basic neurobiology and engineering that hijacks the mechanism behind how neurons naturally activate—or are silenced—in the brain.” This applied science is being used in laboratories worldwide, helping us discover new exciting things about our minds.

The scientific technique could bring us into a future where all of this is possible. This novel way of “mind-control” could be used to treat aging-related brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. It could be used to treat blindness, treat heart abnormalities, and even psychiatric diseases; promises that parallel some of the same claims of Elon Musk’s Neuralink project.

Optogenetics is not some far off idea on the fringes of science. It is an idea rooted in science fiction that seems to be attainable according to recent breakthrough research. It is already being used by clinicians and researchers around the world to study the human brain. 

“Optogenetics is the combination of genetics and optics to control well-defined events within specific cells of living tissue. It includes the discovery and insertion into cells of genes that confer light responsiveness”, says Scientific American

Also included is the associated technologies for delivering light deep into organisms as complex as freely moving mammals, for targeting light-sensitivity to cells of interest, and for assessing specific readouts, or effects, of this optical control.

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excerpted: Interesting Engineering November 23, 2020
by Donovan Alexander
Mind Control Through Light: The Emerging World of Optogenetics