Microchip Enables Electronic Gene Injection

Tiny electrodes could bring gene therapy into the brain

2 min read

A new method of inserting genes into brain cells could greatly simplify the search for brain-disorder treatments, according to research reported this month. It uses an array of ­electrodes, each 100 ­micrometers wide, to inject genetic material into individual neurons. The ­technique’s inventor thinks it could be the key to examining thousands of genes for answers to vexing ­neurological problems, with the hope of one day ­performing gene therapy in the brain.

Gene therapy involves ­inserting genetic material into a ­malfunctioning cell to alter its activities and cure disease. Doing this in the brain would be particularly challenging, mainly because very little is known about how networks of neurons function or how to safely alter the components of such a network.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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