Coming Soon: Optogenetics in Cancer

Cancer has been a disease that has attracted humongous amount of investments in form of time and money. Yet, we aren’t much close to finding a real cure. However, what is heartening is the fact that several technologies have come come close to detecting cancer cells early. Optogenetics is one of them.

As discussed earlier, Optogenetics is pushing the boundaries of brain. Optogenetics uses light to control cells. In a first, researchers at Tufts University, Massachussets, are trying to harness the power of Optogenetics in detecting cancer cells.

While this technique will be limited to use on animal cells for quite some time, it is believed to pave the way for treatment methods that do not involve drug therapy.


Normal cancer treatment involves drugs that are mostly harmful to the body. The optogenetics technique involves injecting a gene into cells that synthesizes a light-sensitive protein. Next, they shine a laser on these cells to alter their behaviors. Different proteins will result in different behaviors.

The ultimate goal in the experiment is to see if optogenetics will change the flow of ions into a cell to revert it to a non-dividing state. Non-dividing states are ideal for cell communication. Nerve cells communicate through electrical signals. Ions travel into or out of the cell through channels in their membranes. This can trigger similar reactions in other surrounding cells.

Breast and skin cancers may be most ideal for this kind of treatment because they are easy to target with a laser, according to the researchers. Reverting the cell back to its original state by hitting it with light may be the cancer treatment of the future. Optogenetics merely reverts the cell back to its normal, or non-dividing, state.

Standard cancer drugs that target dividing cells are not 100 percent effective, and they have harsh side effects. This drug-free treatment technique may be a healthier alternative to treating a volatile disease, like Cancer.

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