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What is Sonogenetics?

Ultrasound is ideally suited for noninvasive manipulation as it can focus easily through the skin and thin bone. Also, sound can travel quickly (1500 m/s in water) and a well-designed transducer-amplifier-waveform generator can generate stimulus pulses of varying duration (10 milliseconds) and at high frequencies.

We have demonstrated the efficacy of the “sonogenetic” method in the nematode, C. elegans. We discovered that the pore-forming subunit of a mechanotransduction channel (TRP-4) increases the concentration of calcium ions within the target cells in response to ultrasound stimulus. Increasing calcium ions can activate neurons and contract muscles, and perhaps even alter immune cells or other cell populations.

We predict that it will be possible to identify other channels and variants with altered thresholds, kinetics and ion permeabilities to specific ultrasound intensities. The noninvasive nature of this approach is ideally suited to control the function of target neurons and non-neuronal cells deep within animals and plants.