Genetically altered mice have shown that diabetes can be effectively managed using a radio signal.
During the studies, three separate genes were inserted into the mice. The first of these encoded an iron-containing protein called ferritin, due to the reliance on iron particles during the research. These particles respond in a certain way to the radio signals by absorbing specific radio wave frequencies and altering cell behaviour.
The second of these genes was placed next to this first gene and encoded a protein that acted like a heat-sensitive door for the third gene. This third gene was the one that coded for insulin, which became activated whenever there was a flood of calcium.
In other words, whenever a radio signal sounded, iron particles would have been produced. These particles would have then altered the behaviour of cells around them and initiated a release of calcium. This calcium would then surge through the ‘heat-sensitive door’ of the second gene into the third gene where insulin was subsequently produced.
These functions were replicated during the study, with the mice showing a significant drop in blood glucose after being exposed to the radio signal.
However, gene therapies are a controversial area of research. Many argue that they should be avoided due to their irreversible and high-risk nature. As such, the scientists are remaining cautious.
But researcher Jeffrey Friedman of Rockefeller University disagrees and says that radio control could make gene therapies safer, as the introduced genes could be turned on and off at will. Additionally, a ‘suicide gene’ could be added to effectively kill off the implanted stem cells if dangerous side effects started to develop.
A large amount of further work needs to be carried out to confirm the results and alleviate safety concerns. However, this study provides an exciting and innovative area of research for the effective management of diabetes.