Remote Control of Nematodes

Biophysicists from the State University of New York (S.U.N.Y.) at Buffalo have successfully altered the behavior of a worm by remote control.  They inserted magnetic nanoparticles into nematodes, then used magnetic fields to open temperature-sensitive ion channels.
Within five seconds of applying the magnetic field, 34 out of the 40 worms in the study stopped in place, and 27 of those worms moved backward, as though retreating from a dangerous heat source. The nematodes without magnetic nanoparticles continued to wriggle forward, completely unaffected by the magnetic field.

The ultimate goal is to apply the technology to human physiology.  Ion channels are basic components of virtually all living cells.  The ability to open and close such channels therapeutically might provide new avenues for cancer chemotherapy and treatment of neurological and endocrine diseases.

Link (with brief video).  PublicationImage credit.

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To my understanding (someone correct me if I'm wrong), there is no pain involved during this remote control. The nanoparticles trigger a reflex that is the same reflex (withdrawal) that would be used IF the nematode were to encounter heat or pain. A corollary would be to use a magnetic field switch to cause your fingers to pull back from the keyboard as if the keyboard were hot (but it's not, and no pain occurs).

As to whether it's "ethical" to do this to a nematode, that's a whole different question.

And psulli, causing pain remotely is already well within the capabilities of military and civilian riot control personnel. And they don't even need to inject you with nanoparticles.
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Wow, it not only sounds mean, it is unethical. I can imagine police/prison guards/school teachers/pet owners loving the idea of causing pain remotely.

But my mind just works like that.
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Also check out Neurophilosophy's excellent coverage! http://scienceblogs.com/neurophilosophy/2010/07/remote_control_of_animal_behaviour_using_magnetic_nanoparticles.php
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The magnets are not pulling the nematode. The magnetic particles in the nematode are closing ion channels, which triggers a pre-existing heat-avoidance reflex. You might say the magnets are inducing a behavior.
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