News Brief by Julia Zubiago
Scientists at Rockefeller University and Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute have discovered a precise, non-invasive method to control the activity of neurons in mice. The process uses magnetic forces to control ion flow into specific cells, and was used to study the role of brain in glucose metabolization.
There are many hormones, including insulin, that maintain homeostatic levels of glucose in the blood. The ventromedial hypothalamus has been hypothesized to play a role in controlling these hormones, but it was previously impossible to determine which cells in that region were involved. When ventromedial hypothalamic neurons were switched on by magnetic forces, blood glucose increased, insulin decreased, and the mice ate more than usual. Inhibition of the neurons caused the opposite; decrease in blood glucose, increases in insulin levels, and less eating.
This research confirms that the brain is indeed involved in regulation of blood glucose. The technique may also be used for the study of any brain circuit, and it may even become a less invasive alternative to deep brain stimulation or trans-magnetic stimulation.
Rockefeller University. "Using magnetic forces to control neurons, study finds brain is vital in glucose metabolism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2016 <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160323152021.ht m>.