Jeffrey Friedman, a molecular geneticist at the Rockefeller University in New York and colleagues came up with a novel way to switch on an engineered calcium-sensitive gene that produces insulin. Their method would allow scientists to manipulate cells remotely. Although they demonstrated it in mice, in the future this will have applications to develop medicines that can be controlled from far away. Some scientists predict this process may be a major breakthrough in health management. Click here to read original article in the journal science published on May 2012.
Importance of this discovery
Scientists now have the ability to remotely activate and deactivate genes. What does that mean? An example: Obesity and diabetes are the twin problems facing modern society, as a rising epidemic in 2012. Scientists all over the world are working on curing and preventing this double scourge. Diabetes patients require a regulated method of producing insulin. One team has invented a way to remotely order cells to produce insulin. You can imagine the implications of this remote-cell-control method with multiple uses. While the scientists used the process to demonstrate controlling insulin levels inside cells, they say that it could be used for other health issues. The importance of this discovery lies in the fact that radio waves could be used to remotely control a cell activity through a gene producing a desired product. Click here to read original article and find scientist affiliations.
How does this discovery work?
The process which Friedman and his colleagues used involved coated iron oxide nanoparticles with antibodies which then would bind to a modified version of an ion channel on the surface of cells. Let’s break this down step by step.
The target was a modified version of the temperature-sensitive ion channel known as TRPV1 and the researchers injected the particles into tumors growing under the skin of the mice being studied.
The researchers then utilized a magnetic field to heat the nanoparticles.
Low-frequency radio waves targeted the nanoparticles and heated them to 42 degrees Celsius;
the ion channel was activated;
allowing calcium to flow into the cells and trigger secondary signals;(Calcium is a super important element in the body. Read articles on “how and why to regulate calcium in Autism” below in related articles and also “how too much calcium can break bones and nails”)
a signal cascade pathway activated an engineered calcium-sensitive gene which produced insulin.
How long did the total process take? 30 seconds. That’s it! In a total of 30 seconds after exposure to radio waves, insulin levels in the mice increased and blood sugar levels dropped. A clever invention.
Goal of the inventors
The scientists did not aim to cure insulin levels remotely. Current methods may be far more convenient to the patient. However, this discovery has a potential to activate genes to produce other proteins to control various diseases.
The important milestones reached here:
Low frequency radio waves penetrating a body to reach nanoparticles to activate an engineered gene.
TRPV1 can focus those radio waves locally.
The research is still in very early stages and has many more milestones to reach.
Great steps achieved here:
coated iron oxide nanoparticles with antibodies;
that bind to a modified version of the temperature-sensitive ion channel TRPV1, which sits on the surface of cells;
injection of these particles into tumours grown under the skins of mice; (imagine the team work here)
using the magnetic field generated by a device similar to a miniature magnetic-resonance-imaging machine to heat the nanoparticles with low-frequency radio waves;
the nanoparticles heating the ion channel to its activation temperature of 42 °C;(knowledge of ion channel);
Opening the channel allowed calcium to flow into cells, (knowledge of calcium flow levels in cells);
triggering secondary signals that switched on an engineered calcium-sensitive gene that produces insulin (knowledge of a signal cascade or a pathway, distant from the original gene or protein targetted).
This research is just in its fledgling stages at the moment and this study is more of a proof of concept than anything else.
How to contact and encourage the scientists
Here we always urge our readers to contact the scientists to let them know how much you appreciate their efforts to improve society and health. Do invite them for talks. Do shower them with appreciation. Please, contact the scientists directly via email or snail mail at:
Jeffrey M. Friedman, Sarah A. Stanley1, Shadi Damanpour
Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065, USA.
Jennifer E. Gagner
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, USA.
Elizabeth and Vincent Meyer Laboratory of Systems Cancer Biology, Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065, USA.
Jonathan S. Dordick
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Department of Biology, Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, USA.
Click here to read original article.
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