The ability to manipulate neuronal function in the living brain has a major impact both on human health and basic sciences. In the past half century, neuronal modulation via implantable microelectrodes in specific brain regions has been used to relief symptoms associated with a variety of neuronal disorders. However, this approach suffers from the need to implant complex, large and expansive electronic devices that depend on an external power supply, and the unexpected and undesirable side effects that the actual placement of the neurostimulation electrodes often produces. Recently, major advances in molecular and synthetic biology facilitated the cloning and optimization of receptors and channels that allow modulation of neuronal function in response to light, chemicals or temperature. However, the control of these proteins requires invasive delivery of the activator. Therefore, a non-invasive, remote controlled neuromodulator that can manipulate specific neuronal population in a non-invasive manner is an unmet need. To embark upon this challenge, we have investigated the potential of an alternative and novel method to remotely control cellular function through the transmission of non-invasive, electromagnetic fields (EMF). Using expression cloning, we have identified and cloned a single gene that encodes to a protein that responds to EMF. This unique gene has never been characterized before and was termed electromagnetic perceptive gene (EPG). EPG was cloned and expressed in mammalian cells, neuronal cultures and in rat?s brain. Immunohistochemistry showed that the expression of EPG is confined to the mammalian cell membrane, and that it can be expressed in a specific population, and in specific brain regions of the rat. Calcium imaging in mammalian cells and cultured neurons expressing EPG demonstrated that remote activation by EMF significantly increases intracellular calcium concentrations, indicative of cellular excitability. Moreover, wireless magnetic activation of EPG in rat motor cortex induced motor evoked responses of the contralateral forelimb in vivo. We hypothesize that the EPG technology will enable wireless control of neuronal function with cell, region and temporal specificity. Here we propose to thoroughly characterize the EPG in the cellular, molecular and functional levels. We will also test the effectiveness of the EPG technology to wirelessly control neuronal function in vivo. We anticipate that this new technology would transform the future of neuromodulation, complement existing neuromodulation tools, and considerably contribute to the understanding of complex neural circuits.

Public Health Relevance

We have identified and cloned a single gene that encodes to a protein that is sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMF). Here we propose to thoroughly characterize the EMF-sensitive protein in the cellular, molecular and functional levels. We will also test the EMF-sensitive protein effectiveness to wirelessly control neuronal function in vivo. Upon achieving our goals, this new technology has the potential to transform the neurostimulation field by offering a non-invasive, cellular-specific, temporal-specific and region-specific method to control neuronal function.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Neuroscience and Ophthalmic Imaging Technologies Study Section (NOIT)
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Talley, Edmund M
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Michigan State University
East Lansing
United States
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Krishnan, Vijai; Park, Sarah A; Shin, Samuel S et al. (2018) Wireless control of cellular function by activation of a novel protein responsive to electromagnetic fields. Sci Rep 8:8764