Science 3 min read

Hacking FGFR1 Gene for Future Treatment of Diseases

FGFR1, the gene vital to our development from embryo to adulthood, has been reprogrammed wirelessly by researchers. The process could potentially pave the way for neurological disorders, cancers, and other diseases to be treated in the future.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Researchers tried to reprogram Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 1 (FGFR1), the gene that plays a vital role in how humans grow from embryos to adult. The exciting part is they were able to control it wirelessly.

According to the researchers, the study adds to the growing genetic manipulation technology we have today. Eventually, it could change how we treat diseases such as cancer and prevent other neurological illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Furthermore, it could inspire the creation of a new subfield of research called optogenomics. This involves controlling the human genome using nanotechnology and laser light.

In a statement, co-author of the study, Josep M. Jornet said:

“The potential of optogenomic interfaces is enormous. It could drastically reduce the need for medicinal drugs and other therapies for certain illnesses. It could also change how humans interact with machines.”

How the Researchers Hacked FGFR1 Gene Wirelessly

For almost two decades, researchers have combined optics and genetics in a field dubbed Optogenetics. Their goal was simple, to control how cells interact using light and possibly correct miscommunication between cells.

As promising as the research was, there was a major flaw. It failed to tackle malfunction in the genetic blueprint that guides human growth.

That’s what the researchers at the University of Buffalo did.

The FGFR1 controls about 4,500 other genes. By being able to manipulate it, one could potentially prevent widespread gene dysregulation.

In other words, it could lead to a new treatment for cancer and mental disorders such as schizophrenia.

So, how did the scientists manipulate the gene? Three words – photonics brain implants.

The team created tiny photonic brain implants – with nano-lasers, nano-detectors, and nano-antennas – then inserted the implant into the brain tissue. Next, they trigged different lasers lights onto the tissue.

With this interaction, the scientists were not only able to activate and deactivate FGFR1 but the associated cell function too. Essentially, they had successfully hacked the gene.

Co-author of the study, and researcher at UB’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, Michal K. Stachowiak believes that the work could change medicine for good. In the future, doctors will be able to manipulate their patients’ genomic structure to correct gene abnormalities, he said.

Although we’re still a long way from that future, the research team is excited about the next step. That involves testings in 3D mini-brains, then ultimately, on cancer tissues.

Read More: Mad Science: David Ishee And His Open Source DIY Gene Hacking

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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