Scientists have discovered that human genes can be controlled by electricity

In the age of fitness trackers and smartwatches, technology has become an integral part of our pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. These devices help us track our steps, heart rate and even push us to reach our cardio exercise goals. However, a recent breakthrough in research from the Swiss institute ETH Zürich suggests that future wearable devices may not just monitor our health, but also enhance it.

Swiss scientists have developed an experimental technology that uses small pulses of electricity to stimulate insulin production in specially engineered human pancreatic tissue. This pioneering approach, known as an “electrogenetic” interface, has the potential to activate targeted genes and provide personalized gene therapy.

The implications of this technology are enormous. For people with diabetes, direct stimulation of insulin production could be life-changing. In a study conducted by scientists, human pancreatic cells were implanted into mice with type 1 diabetes. These cells were then stimulated with direct current from acupuncture needles, resulting in normalization of blood sugar levels.

The key to this breakthrough lies in the integration of digital technology with our biological bodies. The electricity generated by the electrogenetic interface triggers the production of reactive oxygen species, energetic molecules that can activate cells designed to respond to changes in chemical composition. By manipulating epigenetic “switch” molecules inside cells, scientists can solve a range of problems related to genetics.

Our genetic code remains relatively unchanged throughout life, but gene expression can change as we age and form different habits. An electrogenetic interface could reverse some of these changes and possibly provide metabolic intervention.

While the concept of a Fitbit managing diabetes is still far from reality, this study serves as an interesting proof of concept. The challenge now is to miniaturize this technology and fit it into small wearable devices. Fortunately, the electrogenetic interface requires minimal power consumption: three AA batteries can power it for five years. Signals only need to be emitted once a day.

The researchers are confident that this technology can be further developed to trigger more than just insulin production. In the future, wearable devices could play an important role in direct programming of metabolic interventions.

While we eagerly await the realization of this revolutionary technology, it is important to recognize its potential to transform healthcare. Wearable devices with electrogenetic interfaces could pave the way for personalized gene therapy and revolutionize the way we approach our well-being.

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