Scientists have developed a molecular switch that, after implantation, is activated by the green light of a smartwatch.
Many modern fitness trackers and smartwatches have built-in LEDs. The emitted green light, continuous or pulsed, penetrates the skin and is used to measure the user’s heart rate during physical activity or at rest.
A team of scientists from ETH Zurich has used LEDs to control genes and change the behavior of cells through the skin. To do this, they developed a molecular switch that, after implantation, is activated by the green light of the smartwatch. It is associated with a gene network that researchers have inserted into human cells.
For the prototype, HEK 293 elements were used. Depending on the configuration of this network – in other words, the genes it contains – it can produce insulin or other substances as soon as cells are exposed to green light. Turning off the light, in turn, stops the process.
Scientists used standard software for smartwatches, there is no need to develop special programs.
However, the molecular switch is more complex. Scientists have integrated a complex of molecules into the cell membrane with a special element. As soon as the green light turns on, the component that is projected into the cell is separated and transported to the cell nucleus. There, it triggers the insulin-producing gene. When the green light goes out, the disconnected element reconnects with its double embedded in the membrane.
The system has already been tested on mice, and it showed good results.