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Lighting Up Your Muscles

Researchers at Stanford University have found a way to move muscles with pulses of light, reports Technology Review's Erika Jonietz. The study, published in Nature Medicine, describes what the researchers are calling "optogenetics" — a technology which uses light-sensitive proteins from a single-celled alga placed on the nerve and pulses of light to trigger muscle movement, Jonietz says. The researchers insert the gene for a protein called channelrhodopsin-2, which comes from green algae. Then when the neuron implanted with the gene is exposed to blue light, the protein starts a chain of electrical activity inside the cell which spreads to surrounding neurons. "By controlling which neurons make the protein, as well as which cells are exposed to light, scientists can control neural activity in living animals with unprecedented precision," she adds. By implanting a small LED cuff into the mice, the researchers were able to apply light to the nerve evenly. The research could eventually lead to better therapies for the paralyzed, or for patients with neuromuscular disorders, Jonietz says.

The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.