biosystems

2

Controlling genes with your thoughts

It sounds like something from the scene in Star Wars where Master Yoda instructs the young Luke Skywalker to use the force to release his stricken X-Wing from the swamp: Marc Folcher and other researchers from the group led by Martin Fussenegger, Professor of Biotechnology and Bioengineering at the Department of Biosystems (D-BSSE) in Basel, have developed a novel gene regulation method that enables thought-specific brainwaves to control the conversion of genes into proteins – called gene expression in technical terms.

“For the first time, we have been able to tap into human brainwaves, transfer them wirelessly to a gene network and regulate the expression of a gene depending on the type of thought. Being able to control gene expression via the power of thought is a dream that we’ve been chasing for over a decade,” says Fussenegger.

A source of inspiration for the new thought-controlled gene regulation system was the game Mindflex, where the player wears a special headset with a sensor on the forehead that records brainwaves. The registered electroencephalogram (EEG) is then transferred into the playing environment. The EEG controls a fan that enables a small ball to be thought-guided through an obstacle course.

Wireless transmission to implant

The system, which the Basel-based bioengineers recently presented in the journal Nature Communications, also makes use of an EEG headset. The recorded brainwaves are analysed and wirelessly transmitted via Bluetooth to a controller, which in turn controls a field generator that generates an electromagnetic field; this supplies an implant with an induction current.

A light then literally goes on in the implant: an integrated LED lamp that emits light in the near-infrared range turns on and illuminates a culture chamber containing genetically modified cells. When the near-infrared light illuminates the cells, they start to produce the desired protein.

Thoughts control protein quantity

The implant was initially tested in cell cultures and mice, and controlled by the thoughts of various test subjects. The researchers used SEAP for the tests, an easy-to-detect human model protein which diffuses from the culture chamber of the implant into the mouse’s bloodstream.

To regulate the quantity of released protein, the test subjects were categorised according to three states of mind: bio-feedback, meditation and concentration. Test subjects who played Minecraft on the computer, i.e. who were concentrating, induced average SEAP values in the bloodstream of the mice. When completely relaxed (meditation), the researchers recorded very high SEAP values in the test animals. For bio-feedback, the test subjects observed the LED light of the implant in the body of the mouse and were able to consciously switch the LED light on or off via the visual feedback. This in turn was reflected by the varying amounts of SEAP in the bloodstream of the mice.

New light-sensitive gene construct

“Controlling genes in this way is completely new and is unique in its simplicity,” explains Fussenegger. The light-sensitive optogenetic module that reacts to near-infrared light is a particular advancement. The light shines on a modified light-sensitive protein within the gene-modified cells and triggers an artificial signal cascade, resulting in the production of SEAP. Near-infrared light was used because it is generally not harmful to human cells, can penetrate deep into the tissue and enables the function of the implant to be visually tracked.

The system functions efficiently and effectively in the human-cell culture and human-mouse system. Fussenegger hopes that a thought-controlled implant could one day help to combat neurological diseases, such as chronic headaches, back pain and epilepsy, by detecting specific brainwaves at an early stage and triggering and controlling the creation of certain agents in the implant at exactly the right time.

latimesblogs.latimes.com
Goats clean up LA

I’ve been all about goats lately. My mother wants to start raising chickens at her house but the neighborhood is full of cats, not to mention burglars. Chicken burglary is real, people. But goats? The roadrunners might give a goat some attitude but he’d sling it right back, and I’ve heard their not bad as guards. Apparently they’re pretty social though, so you’d need a couple of ‘em, and if you want any milk they have to keep kidding. Dilemmas, dilemmas.

Do Gut Microbes, Hosts Work Together During Evolution?

Authored by Greg Watry, Digital Reporter, R&D Magazine

Feed two separate groups of fruit flies different food, and the two groups will develop different gut microbiotas tailored to their diet. But according to Prof. Michael Shapira, who teaches integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, within one generation, the difference in diet led to the fruit flies exhibiting a mating preference for flies in their own group.

“This led to de facto reproductive isolation of two populations and could facilitate future speciation, that is, real reproductive isolation—a genetic barrier preventing members of the two groups from parenting viable or fertile progeny,” Shapira said in a statement.

Read more: http://www.rdmag.com/articles/2016/04/do-gut-microbes-hosts-work-together-during-evolution

2

I actually put in actual effort today. I went to engineering open houses and I’ve found it guys. I know for sure I want bio systems. I really want to make a difference and be personal about it. Seeing those students talk and the professors, everyone was so close. I absolutely loved it and all the senior design projects that we saw, oh it was sooo intriguing. I can’t help myself I was like a kid in a candy shop. In other news I’m back to training with running, with the better weather I needed it. My aunt wants to do a half marathon with me so I need to get back to lonnggg distances. No more 4milers. I hope everyone had an awesome Tuesday, I’m looking forward to hearing about everyone’s day just saying! Happy Tuesday!

Jesse Jacobs’ pantone panoply Safari Honeymoon has been reviewed by A.V. Club.

“When reading Jesse Jacobs’ Safari Honeymoon the primary feeling is one of total immersion. It’s not just a graphic novel about a newlywed couple taking their honeymoon in a strange, dangerous environment, it’s a sensory experience that engulfs the reader in an intricately detailed biosystem of horrific parasites, alien foliage, and geometric spirits.” — Oliver Sava, A.V. Club

Read the whole review here!

Ruzena Bajcsy

It is my great honor to be able to finally show this illustration of Ruzena Bajcsy, science and robotics legend/still-practicing scientist. Born in 1933 in Czechoslovakia, she has two PhDs (one in electrical engineering and another in computer science), is in the Robot Hall of Fame, has published more than 225 papers, and founded  the University of Pennsylvania’s General Robotics and Active Sensory Perception Laboratory. 

Her research has delved into everything from artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction to biosystems, computational biology, machine learning, and security. She is also famous for helping create a digital anatomical map of the human brain. She has also mentored over 50 doctoral candidates over her 6 decade career.

She currently teaches at UC Berkeley where she serves as Director Emerita of CITRIS (Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society).

I chose to draw her portrait for a zine called “Women’s Work,” curated by Celine Loup and Shannon May (in collaboration with ravishly.com). Each artist chose a celebrated and still-working woman in STEM to illustrate. We had to gain permission from any scientist we wished to illustrate, so I felt very honored that Ms. Bajcsy had the time to respond! The zine was originally for an event dedicated to women in science. Unfortunately, the event was canceled–but the art and zines remain!

I was fascinated to read about her work with mapping movement, and how to do that in physical and digital spaces–she does collaborations with dancers in both research and art.

I highly recommend reading this to learn more, and she has a fantastic interview here as well!

Thanks to Ms Bajcsy for the opportunity and for all the hard work she has done advancing science– and to Celine Loup and Shannon May for the opportunity to participate in this awesome project!

Tuesday.7.19.2016//

Hello Studyblr! 

This my introduction post of sorts (well reintroduction) to the studyblr community. I used to have a side blog studyblr called sincerely-studying, but I was never consistent with using it and I found it distracting to have all of my regular tumblr stuff on my dash. I figured since I will be starting my first year of college at the University of Nebraska in a few weeks I should start getting organized! As an engineering student I'm going to have a crazy busy course load, so the first thing I did was plan out my first week of classes. By writing my schedule down in my planner, I’ve allowed myself to put that first week in focus and has taken away some of my anxiety about finding my way on a huge campus. I hope to get to know more of you as I take this studying journey this year! 

-Tara, BioSystems Engineering Major at UNL 

Gene Expression Can Be Controlled with Thoughts

It sounds like something from the scene in Star Wars where Master Yoda instructs the young Luke Skywalker to use the force to release his stricken X-Wing from the swamp: Marc Folcher and other researchers from the group led by Martin Fussenegger, professor of biotechnology and bioengineering at the Department of Biosystems at ETH Zurich, have developed a novel gene regulation method that enables thought-specific brainwaves to control the conversion of genes into proteins — called gene expression in technical terms.

“For the first time, we have been able to tap into human brainwaves, transfer them wirelessly to a gene network and regulate the expression of a gene depending on the type of thought. Being able to control gene expression via the power of thought is a dream that we’ve been chasing for over a decade,” says Fussenegger.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/11/gene-expression-can-be-controlled-thoughts