Yale University School of Medicine researchers have found a way to exercise a little mind control over fruit flies, making the flies jump, beat their wings, and fly on command by triggering genetic "remote controls" that the scientists designed and installed in the insects’ central nervous systems, according to a new report in the 8 April issue of the journal Cell.
Susana Lima and Gero Miesenböck hope that the remote control system will provide a valuable way to study how nerve-cell activity and connections are related to specific behaviors, from simple movements to more complex behaviors like learning, aggression, and even abstract thought.
The ability to control specific groups of neurons without implanting electrodes in the brain or using similarly invasive techniques "would represent a significant step in moving neuroscience from passive observation…to active and predictive manipulation of behavior," the Cell authors write. Miesenböck also says "one could use this method to restore neural signals that have been lost" due to injury or disease, such as in spinal cord trauma, although he notes that the possibility is "far-fetched" at the moment.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
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Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
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