Salk‘s Sreekanth Chalasani‘s “sonogenetics” technique uses ultrasound to stimulate individual brain cells. A nature paper describes the technology as tested on worms. The goal is noninvasive stimulation of specific cell types or individual neurons in humans, with out using implanted electrodes or fiber-optic cables.
Current optogenetics therapies rely on inserting light-sensitive channel proteins into neurons. When hit by the correct color of light, usually sent by a fiber-optic cable, the channels open, allowing ions to flood in.
The new technique relies on touch-sensitive “channel” proteins, which can be added to specific brain cells through genetic engineering. The channels open when hit by an ultrasonic pulse, allowing ions to flood into a neuron and cause it to turn on.
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