New Progress In The Quest To Control Cells, Wirelessly.

in steemstem •  5 months ago

...Controlling Cells...Wirelessly?


Yes, you read that correctly. Scientists seek to be able to control specific cellular functions with out having to use machines and wires. It's an interesting concept that seems like science fiction. However the discovery of the protein EPG from the fish Kryptopterus bicirrhis puts humanity one step closer to making that dream a reality.

Kryptopterus bicirrhis: aka the glass catfish

Today we will discuss some research published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports titled "Wireless control of cellular function by activation of a novel protein responsive to electromagnetic fields." In this article the authors describe their work on the EPG protein, a protein which responds to electromagnetic fields.

It has long been known that Kryptopterus bicirrhis respond to magnetic fields, with research going back as far as the 1960's describing that this magnetic sensitivity is due to a specific organ, located under the fins of the fish. [2]. This organ has a variety of calcium channels, that become activated upon exposure to any magnetic field, which results in those cells having an increased influx of calcum. It is through this calcium influx that the fish to be able to detect the magnetic field.

EPG

Image Reproduced From [1] Figure 1A

In the article we discuss today, the authors were searching for the protein which results in the activation of the calcium ion channels, and respective influx of calcium. However, they first gave a very nice demonstration of the responsiveness of the Kryptopterus bicirrhisto a magnetic field. We see in the figure to the right in A the fish are swimming in all directions happily. In B the magnetic field is turned on (on the green plant side) and the fish all swim away from it and orient themselves in the same direction. Finally in C, the magnetic field is turned off and the fish resume swimming every which way. Cool right?

To identify the protein responsible for inducing this phenomenon the researchers turned to some molecular biology trickery and extracted the mRNA from the electro responsive organ (aka all the genes being expressed) they then classified all the genes based on sequences available in the GenBank database and removed non-relevant genes. Finally they took a smaller subset and measured current response by a technique called Two-electrode voltage clamp analysis.

From this they found a small peptide of 133 amino acids that was exceedingly responsive to the current. They named this protein electromagnetic perceptive gene or EPG. They performed a variety of bioinformatic characterization steps on this peptide, however did not do the most interesting experiment that I would have done. Utilized CRISPR to knock the gene out of Kryptopterus bicirrhis and see whether or not the fish lost its perception to magnetic fields. (ah well, I guess that's work for another group to do, or another publication.)

Next Steps

Following this, the authors expressed the EPG protein in human embryonic kidney (HEK293) cells:


Image reproduced from [1] Supplemental Figure 4

Here they were able to show that the EPG protein largely ends up in the membrane of the cells. The image above shows in green a stain for the protein cadherin (which is a membrane protein, that helps cells stick to one another), in blue is a DAPI stain (which stains the nucleus, as it binds to thymine bases in DNA), in red they show the fluorescently labeled EPG protein they expressed and finally they overlaid all three images together. We can see that in the EPG squares (the top is no expression of EPG and we see background fluorescence, and the bottom is when expression of the EPG is turned on) that when EPG expression is turned on, it accumulates in the same places as the cadherin, which is the cellular membrane.

The researchers then tested whether their fluorescent EPG could respond in the mammalian cells upon exposure to a magnetic field:


Image reproduced from [1] Figure 2 B and C

On the left we are looking at fluorescence prior to a magnetic field pulse, while on the right we see the fluorescence after a 10 second pulse. The darker red color is more fluorescence and as we see, fluorescence from the tagged EPG protein goes way up in the mammalian cell, after magnetic stimulation. The researchers also determined that this fluorescence coincided with a release of calcium ions from the cells (data not shown).

Can this protein be expressed in rat neurons?

It sure can, the researchers utilized lentivirus to deliver the fluorescently tagged gene to rat neurons (which we can see below on the left hand image with the green glowing neuron).


Image reproduced from [1] Figure 3 D, E and F

Researchers then asked whether or not the EPG protein caused a calcium response in the neurons upon exposure to a magnetic field. AKA did EPG make the neuron electromagnetic sensitive? This is what we are looking at above in the middle and right pannels. These pannels are looking at calcium concentrations through use of a calcium sensitive dye. The middle pannel is the calcium loaded neuron, and the right pannel is after 10 seconds of exposure to a magnetic field. We see that the fluorescence goes way up (it gets bright!) indicating that calcium is released from the neuron.

Yes! The expression of the protein in the neuron results in that neuron becoming sensitive to magnetic fields.

Can we make a mouse leg twitch...wirelessly?

Image reproduced from [1] Figure 4 C

If you have learned anything from the above sections, when I ask a question in the title the answer is (at least in this piece) yes. The researchers transfected the gene into motor neurons into the right primary motor cortex of the rats (aka it should control the left limb only). They then measured the electrical potentials of both the neurons going to the right and left limbs upon exposure to a magnetic field and viola, you get what we see to the left. The left limb had an electrical response, but the right did not.

The researchers were able to wirelessly, through an electromagnetic field, control the functioning of the neurons in a specific part of the rat.


Pretty wild research, if ya ask me!

Cited Sources

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-27087-9
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/199088a0

Cited Images

Image 1

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That is pretty epic research , science always amazes me . The fact that they are able to actually control over the neurons

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Yeah it's really neat!

Great to see you posting regularly! I can't believe I missed your last few, but I haven't visited Steemit routinely these past few weeks.

Definitely a cool article. I agree that knocking out the gene in the Fish would have helped complete the story, but the fact that a mammalian muscle can be engineered to respond to magnets is amazingly cool.

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but I haven't visited Steemit routinely these past few weeks.

Its hard to juggle all of life and being here too, I get it, trust me.

Hows Buffalo? Job is going well?

Yeah, certainly a weird protein function. I did not know that such a thing existed before reading the publication.

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Buffalo is great. Its been a heck of a lot of work both managing the job and moving into/setting up a new house, but I'm almost at the point where the house is how I like it.

Job is picking up steam. I'm going through a bunch of small research projects at the moment which is good at establishing myself as someone who can accomplish tasks, but hard to really sink my teeth into something.

Coincidentally, I'm also writing an article about something magnet related so keep an eye out for that.

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Glad things are coming together for you man! It takes time to get a new situation to where you'd like it.

Well I hope you will make at least one ICP reference in that magnet post. Fuckin magnets, how do they work?

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Oh I have a feeling ICP will make an appearance :)

Very interesting research, I read something similar these days, about devices implanted in the body that could be controlled at a distance despite the fact that the devices did not have any batteries, such a good research.

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Those devices sound interesting as well.

Great job translating the original articles into a cool Steemit post!

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My goal is to expose more people to primary research data. :)

Its hard to read the actual papers for people though. So I simplify that a bit.

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I agree. I had some original research that was lost and/or deleted but never published because it was an internal project commissioned by the NPS. Using Steemit I was able to resurrect the data from old backups and make it available to my colleagues and those who might need the data in the future. For most Steemit posts, I agree we have the obligation to present science to those who might not otherwise see it, and to present it in a way that will arouse interest in the subject material as well as the platform.

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All scientists have that obligation. What good is what we do if people can't learn something from it? Well... Other then the life saving aspect of course.

In Fig 1A (B) the fish acts as a magnetic domain when an external field is applied. This progress is nature meeting physics, an exciting frontier in the field of science.

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right hand rule anyone?

This is a Totally Awesome development... Thinking of the benefits to individuals who have been paralyzed from the neck downwards may be by a severed spinal cord.
The potential goes on and on.

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Yeah, lots can come out of this work, however there are a lot of very basic things to still understand.

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Guess that's why they tested it in such a wide range of animal cells, I've never seen the phrase "1:50 costume made rabbit anti EPG antibody" before lol.

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Oh, just a special antibody, not a furry suit!

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Yes! I get the idea now. Thanks

calcium response in the neurons upon exposure to a magnetic field

So simple and so elegant... And a little bit frightening...

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As all good science is

Hello @justtryme90

Certainly and interesting and exciting research. Very detailed enough for even a doubting Thomas to believe. I wonder how this would be replicated in humans. Perhaps the specific gene will be isolated and inserted into a specific part of human body for the purpose of wireless control of the part of body involved, or...? (what's the possibility, can you help me out; want to understand the concept?).

Regards.

@eurogee of @euronation and @steemstem communities

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I don't know what the possibility will be from this particular protein. Obviously one can use it to control the firing of calcium ion channels by inducing a magnetic field. So like they tested here, you can use it to induce nerve firing. What could one do with that? :)

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Do with nerve firing...? Well, I seem to be loss here. But let me make a guys🤔

Can't fathom anything sir.

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What about helping people with nerves that don't fire properly?

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You are right! I read this in @zests comment and I immediately agreed with him. Yes you re right. Thanks✌️

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Of course. Thanks for reading :)

This will be of essential benefit in diagnostics, especially in implants.
I see high potential in this research. I just keep getting amazed, Science is really going deeper each day

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I feel like 20 years from now things are going to look a lot different. Technology is really exploding at the moment, especially in the health fields.

Ok, this has to be the most interesting article I have read in the last few days, setting you as a real example here.
I am a huge fan of IoT and I thought of many implementations but this is something I missed before.
Amazing ideas come to me with this and the future. Could we call T-cells on command or block some receptors, copying or simulating the CCR5 mutation to prevent HIV from getting a hold of any cell?
The options.... !

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Glad you enjoyed it, there are some fascinating protein functions out there. Who knows what we will find out next and what applications may come forth.

Good questions, I don't have an answer for them.

I just learnt something new from the case of the rat you cited in the post: The right primary motor cortex controls the left limb. And I believe the reverse should also be the case for the right limb.

We learn everyday, and I've just learnt something new today.

Thanks for sharing

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Yep our brains are inversed like that.

Let's open the door to science fiction: mind control ^^

But one question: would it be possible to use that to cure diseases. For instance, acting on cancerous cells? I assume it is maybe to early to answer.

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Too early to know what could be done with this. Its likely more of a regulatory mechanism. Think neural treatments, like potentially activating nerves that are deadened perhaps. At this stage it looks like it can only activate calcium ion channels, but if it can do more then that, then it becomes more interesting.

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I see. I was not seeing this as the zeroth step of something potentially bigger (or not, since we don't know :p)

Thanks!

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Is not all science the zeroth step of something bigger?

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Always! :)

I love how these fishes and small beings are able to process so much info and yet be so elegant. It's like getting a gf who can cook and look hot. But in nature its the opposite everytime. There is perfection in each of its creation. So complexly built, its impossible to find significant flaws in nature!

Nice research work btw!

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All I did was summarize this article in my words and try to make it understandable. So much neat work doesn't make the main science news, and people never get exposed. The world, and biological sciences are just filled to the brim with fascinating stories.

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In that case glad you spread the word :) Nice presentation nevertheless!

I was aware of optogenics, but not this. I'm already dreaming up ideas for how to use it, if it can be expressed in prokaryotes.

Glad to see you mentioned GenBank too, this is a good example of how having a publicly available database of previous research, in a machine readable format, can help with unraveling current mysteries (or, as you put it more succinctly, 'trickery').

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if it can be expressed in prokaryotes

Its a membrane protein, so it would likely not be as useful in prokaryotic organisms.

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A little embarrassed to not have considered that. Then again, it's just an opportunity to isolate the active site in a non-membrane bound portion or play around with embedding in in planctomycetes (ha, right).

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Indeed, there is the potential for domain fusions with other proteins of interest, but considering the structure of this one, I don't know if that's possible. Only more research will let us know.

Very fascinating article and research! Can't wait to see more contents from you. Thanks for supporting my content. Cheers! 🙏👻

Hi @justtryme90!

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Dear @justtryme90
I read your great article. I am trying to download your cited references.
As you know, one of the main challenging issues in the medical context is combating against cancerous cells. One of the main problems in this issue is the exact delivery of the drug to cancer cells, as it does not harm other cells.
Perhaps with the help of this gene (EPG)(Electromagnetic Perceptive Gene), it is possible to determine the correct route of delivery of the drug to cancer cells. So that the drug can be properly transmitted to the cancerous tissue by its over-expression in cells such as HEK (human Embryonic Kidney cells) and transplanting it into cancer tissue with the help of magnetic flux.
I think this procedure can be practical.
Please read my latest post, and leave a comment for me
Please support me to advance our common goals (ie the progress of the STEM)

Thank you

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I don't think our understanding of this protein is where it needs to be for any practical applications yet. It's just an interesting activity, though I don't see how it would be useful for drug delivery...

Rather risky this research in my opinion, especially for future applications that could arise.

But a curious question, what would happen if that rat or the glass catfish are exposed to an EMP?

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Why is it risky?

I don't know what would happen if they were exposed to an EMP, I don't fully understand, mechanistically, how the EPG responds to a magnetic field. Whether a stronger field results in a different response then a weaker one, or whether there is a cap of a certain strength causes the response and anything greater doesn't cause a bigger response.

I would suspect that the likely answer is that an EMP would cause the same response as any other moderately strong magnetic field, but because the EMP is brief, that response would be minimal. Its not something that can break like electronics.

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Is that I put myself in a very futuristic moment, where for example a person with motor problems can walk again thanks to these researchs and be exposed to an EMP, would it lose the ability to walk for a moment or just spasms?
If that were the case, it would be very dangerous for the affected person.

It's great all these research but I can not help but ask myself these kinds of questions., hahaha

with the progress of science and technology, i am sure it can happen. Followed for more amazing contents like this

Seems like an intense weapon in the future

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I don't really see how. :)

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By being able to direct the electromagnetic field towards a person or group of people and having it take effect on a cellular level. Maybe we can find the cells the induce laughter and have a good cackle now and again :P

Interesting information

Extremely breathtaking.. Science is just making the World a beautiful place.. Kudos to this team of researchers.

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Indeed, so many bright minds.

Thank you very much for sharing some of the most important information you have shared with us all.

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I think its interesting... but important?

Thanks for sharing this post....it is very educative....keep it up.....please help me checkout my posts on my blog....thank you and God bless.

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Thanks for checking it out, glad you got something out of it.

This is a broad research I must say @justtryme90
The researchers did a pretty nice job.
Thanks for sharing!

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Thanks for reading it!

This is great news!! Now I want to read those articles in your references, lol.

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Go for it, there are only two and they aren't particularly long. :)