might be a relatively unknown area of neuroscience
, but it's one that, thanks to some new research, could soon find itself (and its rodental subjects) in the spotlight. For the uninitiated, it's the practice of manipulating animal cells using light (with a little help from gene therapy). Until now, optogenetic equipment has been large and unwieldy, making testing on subjects (read: rats) painstaking. Startup, Kendall Research, has changed all this, creating wireless prototypes that weigh just three grams (0.11 ounces). By eschewing bulky Lasers for LEDs and Laser diodes, the equipment is small enough that it can be attached to the rodents. At that point, their brain function can be manipulated with the touch of a button, and different parts can be stimulated without breeding mutant variants -- a controversial practice that doesn't even yield results in real time. The "router" is powered wirelessly by super capacitors below test area, and researchers can conduct experiments remotely, even automatically. Human applications for this are still some way off, but we're sure our future overlords
will make good use of it.