Scientists at Rice University have successfully used a remote control to operate the wings of fruit flies, after hacking into their brains. To achieve this, the researchers genetically modified flies to express a specific heat-sensitive ion channel. Then they inserted a heat trigger—magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles that heat up in the presence of a magnetic charge—into the flies’ brains. When a magnetic field is switched on, it warms up the particles, triggering the ion channel and causing the flies to spread their wings in less than a second. This experiment is a part of the researchers’ larger quest to study human brain functions in order to better treat neurological diseases. “Remote control of select neural circuits with magnetic fields is somewhat of a holy grail for neurotechnologies. Our work takes an important step toward that goal because it increases the speed of remote magnetic control, making it closer to the natural speed of the brain,” says coauthor of the study Jacob Robinson. Read more about the innovative project at Futurism.
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