Genetically engineered ‘Magneto’ protein remotely controls brain and behaviour


The technique, developed by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), uses a protein called magnetite, which is naturally found in some bacteria and can be genetically engineered to bind to specific nerve cells. When exposed to a magnetic field, the magnetite-bound cells become activated and can be used to control complex behaviours.

The researchers tested their method on fruit flies, using it to control the flies’ courtship behaviour. By activating certain neurons with a magnetic field, they were able to induce the flies to court each other even when they weren’t interested in doing so.

The team believes that this technique could eventually be used to study and manipulate complex behaviours in other animals as well. For example, it could potentially be used to study how different brain circuits are involved in decision-making or social behaviour. It could also be used for therapeutic purposes, such as controlling seizures or treating depression.

The researchers are now working on refining their technique and making it more precise so that it can be used for more complex applications. They hope that their work will open up new possibilities for understanding and manipulating animal behaviour.

These techniques have allowed scientists to gain insight into the mechanisms underlying behaviour, and to identify the roles of different brain regions in generating it. By combining these methods with other approaches, such as optogenetics, imaging and electrophysiology, researchers are beginning to unravel the complex relationship between neuronal activity and behaviour.

Finally, genetic engineering techniques can be used to modify the activity of neurons by introducing genes that encode for proteins that either increase or decrease the excitability of neurons.

In addition, both optogenetics and chemogenetics require the use of genetically modified organisms, which can be difficult to produce and maintain. Furthermore, the effects of these techniques are often limited to a single type of neuron or a small region of the brain, making it difficult to study complex neural networks. Finally, both methods are expensive and require specialized equipment.

The technique, called optogenetics, uses light to control the activity of neurons that have been genetically modified to express light-sensitive proteins. By shining a light on these neurons, researchers can activate or inhibit them with millisecond precision. This allows scientists to study how neural circuits work in real time and to understand how different types of neurons interact with each other.

The new technique is based on a type of protein called an opsin, which is found in some bacteria and algae. When exposed to light, these proteins can open or close ion channels in the cell membrane, allowing ions such as calcium and sodium to flow into or out of the cell. This change in ion concentration can then trigger electrical signals that cause the neuron to fire or not fire.

By using this technique, Güler’s team was able to rapidly activate specific types of neurons in mice and observe their behavior. They found that activating certain types of neurons caused the mice to move their heads in a particular direction, while activating other types caused them to move their eyes. This suggests that optogenetics could be used to study how different parts of the brain are involved in controlling behavior.

Overall, this new technique provides researchers with a powerful tool for studying neural circuits and understanding how they control behavior. It also has potential applications for treating neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and depression by targeting specific neuronal pathways with light-activated drugs or therapies.

Now, researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a single-step method for engineering nerve cells so that they become sensitive to radio waves and magnetic fields. The team used a technique called genetic code expansion to attach an iron-storing protein called ferritin to a naturally occurring nerve cell protein called TRPV1. This allowed them to create a new type of nerve cell which is sensitive to both radio waves and magnetic fields. The team then tested the engineered cells in mice and found that they could be used to control blood glucose levels in response to external stimuli.

The new method could have important implications for medical treatments, as it could allow doctors to control certain physiological processes with greater precision than ever before. It could also be used in research, allowing scientists to study how different types of stimuli affect biological processes in more detail than ever before.

By controlling the temperature and stretching forces, researchers can control the flow of current through the cell membrane. This allows them to stimulate specific areas of the spinal cord, which in turn can activate different muscles.

They then tested the engineered protein in a cell culture system and found that it was indeed activated by magnetic fields. This suggests that TRPV4 could be used as a target for magnetic therapies, such as those used to treat chronic pain.

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Magneto-manipulation of zebrafish behavior is a novel technique that has been developed to study the effects of localized magnetic fields on zebrafish larvae. This technique involves exposing the larvae to a localized magnetic field, which causes them to coil in response. By manipulating the strength and direction of the magnetic field, researchers can control the direction and speed of the coiling behavior.

This technique has been used to study a variety of behaviors in zebrafish, including locomotion, schooling, and predator avoidance. It has also been used to investigate how different environmental factors such as light intensity and temperature affect these behaviors. Additionally, this technique can be used to study how genetic mutations affect behavior in zebrafish.

Overall, magneto-manipulation of zebrafish behavior is an important tool for studying various aspects of animal behavior. It provides researchers with a non-invasive way to manipulate animal behavior without having to physically interact with them or alter their environment. This makes it an invaluable tool for understanding how animals respond to different stimuli and how their behaviors are affected by genetic mutations or environmental changes.

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The results of this study demonstrate that Magneto can be used to control the activity of neurons in the brain. This could have a wide range of applications, from treating neurological disorders to creating new types of prosthetic devices. The researchers suggest that their technique could also be used to study how different types of neurons interact with each other and how they are affected by external stimuli.

The results of this experiment suggest that Magneto can indeed be used to manipulate neuronal activity in live animals. The researchers concluded that Magneto is a promising tool for controlling neuronal activity in vivo, and could potentially be used to study the neural basis of behaviour in zebrafish larvae.

He believes that the research could lead to a better understanding of how memories are formed and stored in the brain, which could eventually help scientists develop treatments for memory-related disorders.

  • “Previous attempts [using magnets to control neuronal activity] needed multiple components for the system to work – injecting magnetic particles, injecting a virus that expresses a heat-sensitive channel, [or] head-fixing the animal so that a coil could induce changes in magnetism,†he explains. “The problem with having a multi-component system is that there’s so much room for each individual piece to break down.â€
  • “This system is a single, elegant virus that can be injected anywhere in the brain, which makes it technically easier and less likely for moving bells and whistles to break down,†he adds, “and their behavioral equipment was cleverly designed to contain magnets where appropriate so that the animals could be freely moving around.â€


Magnetic control of the nervous system has been a long-standing goal in neuroscience. Here, we describe a genetically targeted approach to magnetic control of neuronal activity that is based on the expression of magnetically sensitive ion channels. We demonstrate that these channels can be activated by an external magnetic field and used to modulate neuronal excitability in vitro and in vivo. Our results provide a powerful tool for studying neural circuit function and manipulating behavior with high spatiotemporal precision.