University at Buffalo Scientists Make Massive Strides Toward Regulating Human Genome

Successful manipulation of optogenomic interfaces can change our entire medical approach to many common neurological abnormalities, as well as better our interactions with machines.

University at Buffalo Scientists Make Massive Strides Toward Regulating Human Genome
Optogenomic manipulation can offer new fields of possibility for the ways we currently address neurological disorders. tampatra/iStock

A fascinating forward-jump in optogenomic interfaces has recently been made by researchers Yongho Bae, Josep M. Jornet, Ewa K. Stachowiak, and Michal K. Stachowiak, all of the University at Buffalo (UB). Coining the scientific subfield they are simultaneously helping create "optogenomics," this group of scientists has developed innovative ways of controlling, manipulating, and directing the human genome by virtue of nanotechnology combined with laser light.

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In contemporary understandings of cancer therapies, schizophrenia treatments, and other neurological ailments, these strides in overt genetic management represent new horizons and new hope because they take the research beyond the previous boundaries of simple optogenetics, wherein only the miscommunications between cells could be addressed.

Optogenomics provides for a deeper level of internal jurisdiction that allows for misfires in genetic blueprints that directly oversee growth and disease resistance. 

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These critical leaps in genomic manipulation have their foundation in a new look at the power of the Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 1 (FGFR1) gene, which is estimated to dictate roughly one-fifth of the entire human genome. The Human Genome Project and UB study reckon this equates about 4,500 other genes--a shocking single portal to a multifaceted world of outcomes that has led Michal Stachowiak to title this gene the "boss" gene. Everything from breast cancer to other prolific gene dysregulations like schizophrenia fall under this boss gene's dominion.

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Working to create nano-lasers and nano-antennas which became part and parcel to tailored photonic brain implants, the team of researchers utilized light-activated toggle switches at the molecular level once the implants were placed inside brain tissue grown from pluripotent stem cells.

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Sparking laser light across the spectrum, from far-red all the way to common blue, the scientists were able to both galvanize and disband FGFR1 at will. They were also able to hack the essential cellular functions of the FGFR1 gene in a way that provides invaluable insight to future approaches we may take in genomic engineering.

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The image below showcases FGFR1 in its active and deactivated states.

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FGFR1 gene in its natural state and activated by laser light.
Source: University at Buffalo

 While the UB team freely admits the optogenomic interface science is in its earliest infancy, next steps include testing in cancerous tissues and 3D "mini-brains."

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