Bioengineers in Basel have found a way to let humans switch the genes of mice on and off with the power of their brainwaves.

A team of researchers headed by Martin Fussenegger, Professor of Biotechnology andBioengineering at the Department of Biosystems (D-BSSE) in Basel, have created an optogenetics device, which enables brainwaves to regulate gene to protein conversions.

In a study published in Nature Communications, Fussenegger commented that, “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 thoughts is a dream that we’ve been chasing for over a decade.”

Explaining to WIRED.co.uk that he and his team had been interested in “controlling gene expression by external trigger compounds or physiological cues” for quite some time, Fussenegger noted that it was back in 2011 that they had kickstarted the project.

Nature Communications

“In 2011, we first designed an optogenetic device, which allowed us to shine blue LED light on a mouse,” Fussenegger told WIRED.co.uk. “The light penetrates the mouse’s skin and programs engineered cells to produce insulin and correct type one diabetes in the animals.”

This experiment inspired the team to raise the bar in their research. “We realised that our brain produces and uses electricity to process information, and that information can be captured by an EEG device,” explained Fussenneger.

An EEG device is a headset that captures brainwave activities, converting them wirelessly to control the LED, which is subsequently rewired, according to Fussenegger, “to express the gene.” Compared to back in 2011, this time around the optogenetic device relies on infra-red LED light, which Fussenneger notes is less harmful than the blue LED light.

Asking their study participants to adopt two mental states “focus and concentrate” and “relax and meditate”, Fussenegger discovered that these two different states produced distinct brainwave patterns that communicated to the LED. full article