Imagine if a smartwatch or fitness bracelet could control your metabolism and not just measure your heart rate and count your steps. It seems impossible, but the experiment conducted by scientists showedthat the activity of genes in human cells can be controlled by electrical impulses.
Researchers at ETH Zurich have done work that could lead to wearable devices being used to improve our health in the future, rather than just collecting activity data. The scientists unveiled a so-called “electrogenetic” interface. A promising interface is able to launch target genes on command at those moments when our body needs stimulation or health correction.
“Wearable electronic devices are playing an increasing role in capturing human health data for personalized medical interventions. the researchers write in their published work. “Due to the lack of a direct electrogenetic interface, however, wearable devices cannot yet program gene therapy directly. Here we provide the missing link.”
How reported in an article by scientists in a journal natural metabolismThe experiment was performed on mice with type 1 diabetes. Mice were implanted with human pancreatic cells. Stimulating these cells with an electrical current on command from an external device resulted in the forced production of insulin. With reservations, but in fact the animals were saved from an incurable disease.
Cell stimulation occurs in the process of formation of reactive oxygen species – very active and “aggressive” molecules, but their concentration was controlled and did not reach a concentration after which oxygen molecules become toxic to the body. Oxygen molecules act directly on DNA during cell division and can steer this process in the right direction, enabling gene therapy with controlled electrical impulses.
“We believe this technology will enable wearable electronic devices to directly program metabolic interventions.” write the researchers. Obviously this will happen very, very soon. But there is potential in it, and it promises to someday tackle more than just genetic diseases. For example, to get the ability to select “Afterburner” mode in the bracelet menu and catch up with the outgoing train.