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Science

Nanoparticles Heated By Radio Waves Switch On Genes In Mice 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the flipping-a-switch dept.
ananyo writes "Researchers have used radio waves to remotely activate engineered insulin-producing genes in mice. In the long term, the work could lead to medical procedures in which patients' genes are triggered on demand. The researchers coated iron oxide nanoparticles with antibodies that bind to a modified version of a temperature-sensitive ion channel. They injected these particles into tumors grown under the skins of mice, then heated the nanoparticles with low-frequency radio waves. The nanoparticles heated the ion channel, activating it and allowing calcium to flow into cells. The influx of calcium switched on an engineered calcium-sensitive gene that produces insulin (abstract)."
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Nanoparticles Heated By Radio Waves Switch On Genes In Mice

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  • you over dose on Insulin when you stand next to an old short wave radio.
    • So they basically microwaved (or induction-heated, or whatever) the genes into working. What will happen when a patient undergoing that treatment gets thrown into an MRI machine? will the nanoparticles turn into popcorn?
    • by Shavano (2541114)

      Only after they inject you with the nanoparticles that bind to the insulin producing genes in your bioengineered tumors.

  • This sounds like something the government could use to control us!
    • well no one likes a "spitter"
    • I'll ignore the more mundane uses, and the sinister corporate scenarios*. For now just imagine the prison scenario. You don't need to build expensive walls or fences anymore, just a centrally placed and secure RF transmitter. Walk too far away from it, and the specially implanted genes for [bodily function] are turned on or off. Either killing you, or disabling you so you can be dragged back to your cell.

      *Turn on the genius genes from 9-5, turn on the retard genes from 5-9. Smart workers that will do what y

      • by dittbub (2425592)
        if we could make gene-prisons then certainly we could just turn off their criminal genes and turn on their good samaritan gene and send them on their way
  • Hurry it up peeeeeeze!!!

  • I have had diabetes for 10 years now. Sign me up.
    • Wouldn't this be a bit easy to hack? Just blast a diabetes patient with radio waves, instant insulin overdose, nobody will know what happened. Perfect murder.

      • Wouldn't this be a bit easy to hack? Just blast a diabetes patient with radio waves, instant insulin overdose, nobody will know what happened. Perfect murder.

        Mod this guy up. I was thinking the same thing when I first read this.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Or mod both of you down for not understanding wth you are talking about.

        • by hackula (2596247)
          It turns on cells that produce insulin when there is excess sugar in the blood stream. That would cure a diabetic, not murder them. Regardless, the technology already exists to give someone an insulin overdose (insulin and a syringe; probably easier to administer than a cutting edge radio-genetic-modifier-machine).
      • by hackula (2596247)
        This would be true except that the antidote to insulin overdose is a glass of apple juice (or anything with simple sugars), which your body will instinctively crave in that situation. Diabetics frequently have low blood sugars on a regular basis, so they can tell when they are having one with astounding accuracy. Trust me, if you were having a low blood sugar that was heading towards being fatal, you would find something sweet and you would eat it. It is the closest thing to an animal instinct that I have e
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They injected these particles into tumors grown under the skins of mice

      I may be biased since I do not currently have diabetes as far as I know, but I'll avoid a treatment which involves growing tumors as one of the initial steps.

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      Are you sure about that. Right now, your treatment regime is simple. You take a drug every day.

      The new treatment regime would be
      * have bioengineered tumors grown under your skin. (First, sign the waiver that says you won't sue if they give you cancer.)
      * take periodic injections of nanoparticles that bind to the insulin producing genes (sign the waiver that says you agree it's OK if the nanoparticles cause you to die or go into a coma)
      * have yourself irradiated every day to make sure the tumors make enoug

  • by slew (2918) on Friday May 04, 2012 @02:18PM (#39893259)

    As they seem to be deliberatly growing tumours in the subject (albeit calcium sensitive insulin producing tumors), I can't imagine this technique will be used in people for quite a while (as the abstract states, "because it is not ethical to grow tumours in humans").

    Also, sounds like nanoparticles don't technically switch on the genes in their experiment, calcium ions did. This rube-goldberg technique used localized heat generated by stimulating the nanoparticles in a tumor inserted in a mouse with radio waves to open up an ion channel that allowed calcium ion already in the body to trigger the gene in the tumor. However, temperature sensitive ion channels aren't the only way to do this, there are also voltage sensistive calcium ion channels too (which is how I remember insulin production is normally triggered in the pancreas). If you have to stick something in your body anyhow (like a tumour), perhaps just using voltage control rather than heat control is probably gonna be just as good.

    • I think the idea might be to create something which can be inherited, rather than something that has to be implanted.

      • by slew (2918)

        I think the idea might be to create something which can be inherited, rather than something that has to be implanted.

        If you are willing to modify the genetics to make whatever this "thing" is, why not just modify the genetics to fix whatever protien regulation problem you have? They seem to be talking about theraputic uses, not GM stuff (unless you are thinking of some sort of super soldier/athelete).

    • Sounds like a quote from Portal 2...

      "For this next test, we put nanoparticles in the gel. In layman's terms, that's a billion little gizmos that are gonna travel into your bloodstream and pump experimental genes and RNA molecules and so forth into your tumors. Now, maybe you don't have any tumors. Well, don't worry. If you sat on a folding chair in the lobby and weren't wearing lead underpants, we took care of that too." --Cave Johnson

    • And radio waves alone can affect gene expression, no nanoparticles needed: Mammalian Stem Cells Reprogramming in Response to Terahertz Radiation [plosone.org]

      We report that extended exposure to broad-spectrum terahertz radiation results in specific changes in cellular functions that are closely related to DNA-directed gene transcription. Our gene chip survey of gene expression shows that whereas 89% of the protein coding genes in mouse stem cells do not respond to the applied terahertz radiation, certain genes are activ

  • My only concern (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Grayhand (2610049) on Friday May 04, 2012 @02:29PM (#39893419)
    Stem cells and engineered genes would give the potential for an outright cure. Methods like this seem to reek of ongoing treatment. Diabetes treatment is a multibillion dollar a year industry so I think the industry will view a cure as a bad thing. A treatment that requires regular maintenance would be more desirable. Honestly when have you heard of a cure for a cronic condition that didn't require regular drug treatment? Even transplants require anti-rejection drugs. I read about a method for getting rid of harmful bacteria that caused tooth decay over a decade ago but since then silence. The approach was sound and the early testing worked yet the procedure never got past testing. It involved reducing the harmful bacteria with antibiotics then replacing it with a harmless one. This actually occurs naturally in some people. Most don't realize we generally catch the bad bacteria from our mothers sharing food. If you haven't caught the bad bacteria by age five you generally get colonized with the harmless version. I've read about several methods for outright curing diabetes that sound like they should work but long before there's a cure available I'll bet there will be more effective "treatments". Just look at the number of pills most people over 60 take? They are turning us into high priced drug addicts.
    • Honestly when have you heard of a cure for a cronic condition that didn't require regular drug treatment?

      Well, gosh, I guess if you cure it, then it isn't chronic any more.

      If your definition of "chronic" is "persisting over a long period without killing the patient", well, there are any number of long-term infections that can be cured by antibiotics, anti-fungals, or whatever.

      If your definition of "chronic" is "not able to be cured by a single round of treatment", well, I can only congratulate you on your insight -- sure enough, conditions that can't be cured by a single round of treatment must instead be cont

  • Any biochem /.ers want to chime on the potential for this technique to trigger apoptosis in cancerous tissues (or any targeted tissues)?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Any biochem /.ers want to chime on the potential for this technique to trigger apoptosis in cancerous tissues (or any targeted tissues)?

      This has been under research now with the Kanzius project (http://www.kanziuscancerresearch.org/).

  • Somehow all this reminds me of a a line that I still remember from a a copy of MAD from some decades ago: "America is a free country, a Gee country, a rippedy-dippedy-dee country ..."

    CC.

  • Then time for some awesome galactic exploration :)

  • Anyone else thinking of remote control on demand customizable girlfriends?

  • I haven't been on here for a long time... I usually only used to comment on things about meds or if I thought something posted needed clarity... But when I saw this I had to jump on it. When an nanoparticle, (Fe(III)O for example) is coated with antibodies and binds to an ion channel for manipulation, I do not see how this relates (biochemically) to 'switching on' a gene... It has nothing to do with the genetic structure or the route of action of genes. An ion channel is already pre-determined by the gen

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev

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