After recently announcing that several of its researchers managed to fabricate cheaper narcotics from bioengineered yeast, Stanford University amazes us with another finding – the wirelessly controllable laboratory mouse.
Unlike in other attempts which required a wire, Stanford electrical engineers were able to implant wireless powered LED devices into a mouse’s leg that can electrically stimulate the animal’s neurons and motor functions.
The chip is so tiny that it can fit into the brain, limbs, or spine of mice. The device can prompt the mouse to walk in circles, for instance, by stimulating its peripheral nerves and neural network in the animal’s brain.
The research team says that the new finding may help neuroscientists find the true causes of mental illnesses and movement disorders and find a proper treatment. The finding is also a major advance in the relatively new field of optogenetics, which tries to control brain activity through light stimuli.
The new chip is also practical because it is small enough to be implanted. In past experiments, scientists had to attach a cable to mice, greatly affecting the outcomes of the experiments since the animals were too traumatized to act naturally.
“This is a new way of delivering wireless power for optogenetics. It’s much smaller and the mouse can move around during an experiment,”
noted Ada Poon, Stanford electrical engineer and lead author of the study.
Plus, the chip can wirelessly power itself by using its host as an electricity conductor. This is the idea of Poon who said that she and her fellow researchers were too lazy to start to track the animal’s movement to provide a source of localized power.
Poon imagined a way of harnessing the mouse and using it as power conduit for the 50 mg micro-chip. So, the animal virtually channeled the energy to its peripheral nerves. For this purpose, scientists put the mouse on a platform that amplifies radio frequency energy which is later stored by a 2mm coil in the microcip.
Nevertheless, although study authors call the discovery a major breakthrough, some people don’t see it that way. Critics claim that the finding may be turned from something designed to help humans into something designed to work against humans, just like in those Sci-Fi movies where people were mind-controlled with help from a microcip implanted in their head or spine.
But scientists said that their invention cannot be used by evil doers because their mouse was genetically altered to produce opsins or light-sensitive proteins in their brains. For any other creature the device would simply not work.
Image Source: Medical News Today