07 July 2010

Nano-Magnets: Controlling the Worms in Your Brain

Scientists at the University of Buffalo have devised a means of using magnetic nanoparticles implanted in the "heads" of worms, to control the worms' burrowing behaviour.
"We targeted the nanoparticles near what is the 'mouth' of the worms, called the amphid," explains Pralle. "You can see in the video that the worms are crawling around; once we turn on the magnetic field, which heats up the nanoparticles to 34 degrees Celsius, most of the worms reverse course. We could use this method to make them go back and forth. Now we need to find out which other behaviors can be controlled this way."

The worms reversed course once their temperature reached 34 degrees Celsius, Pralle says, the same threshold that in nature provokes an avoidance response. That's evidence, he says, that the approach could be adapted to whole-animal studies on innovative new pharmaceuticals.

..."By developing a method that allows us to use magnetic fields to stimulate cells both in vitro and in vivo, this research will help us unravel the signaling networks that control animal behavior," says Arnd Pralle, PhD, assistant professor of physics in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and senior/corresponding author on the paper. _Physorg_(more video)
Picture a miniature version of the sandworms of Dune, plowing through the tissues of your brain. Instead of being guided by gill-hooks, they are being ridden by invisible electromagnetic waves, steering them to ever more sensitive parts of your brain.

"Wake up, Mr. Fin! You were only dreaming."

"Oh, my, thank you, Valerie. Wait! Don't push the "Publish" button! . . . .

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