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Indian-American scientist uses sound waves to control brain cells

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Washington: Indian-American researcher Sreekanth Chalasani, from Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California has developed a new way to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle and other cells using ultrasonic sound waves.

photo credit: www.ndtv.com
photo credit: www.ndtv.com

Dubbed as sonogenetics, the new technique has some similarities to the burgeoning use of light to activate brain cells in order to better understand the brain.

“Light-based techniques are great for some uses. But this is a new, additional tool to manipulate neurons and other cells in the body,” informed Sreekanth Chalasani, assistant professor in Salk’s molecular neurobiology laboratory.

The new method – which uses the same type of waves used in medical sonograms – may have advantages over the light-based approach – known as optogenetics – particularly when it comes to adapting the technology to human therapeutics.

In optogenetics, researchers add light-sensitive channel proteins to neurons they wish to study.

By shining a focused laser on the cells, they can selectively open these channels, either activating or silencing the target neurons.

Chalasani and his group decided to see if they could develop an approach that instead relied on ultrasound waves for the activation.

“In contrast to light, low-frequency ultrasound can travel through the body without any scattering,” he noted.

“This could be a big advantage when you want to stimulate a region deep in the brain without affecting other regions,” adds Stuart Ibsen, post-doctoral fellow in the Chalasani lab.

“The real prize will be to see whether this could work in a mammalian brain,” Chalasani pointed out.

His group has already begun testing the approach in mice. “When we make the leap into therapies for humans, I think we have a better shot with noninvasive sonogenetics approaches than with optogenetics,” he emphasised in a paper appeared in the journal Nature Communications.

Chalasani obtained his PhD from University of Pennsylvania. He then did his post-doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr Cori Bargmann at the Rockefeller University in New York.

(IANS)

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California’s Net Neutrality Law Causes A Law Suit From The US Government

Oregon, Washington and Vermont have approved legislation related to net neutrality, but California's measure is seen as the most comprehensive attempt.

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net neutrality
California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a forum in Sacramento, Calif. VOA

California Gov. Jerry Brown has approved the nation’s strongest net neutrality law, prompting an immediate lawsuit by the Trump administration and opening the next phase in the battle over regulating the internet.

Advocates of net neutrality hope California’s law, which Brown signed Sunday to stop internet providers from favoring certain content or websites, will push Congress to enact national rules or encourage other states to create their own.

However, the U.S. Department of Justice quickly moved to halt the law from taking effect, arguing that it creates burdensome, anti-consumer requirements that go against the federal government’s approach to deregulating the internet.

“Once again the California Legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

Net Neutrality
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, left, receives congratulations from Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, center, and Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, right, after his net neutrality bill was approved by the state Senate. VOA

The Federal Communications Commission repealed Obama-era rules last year that prevented internet companies from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.

The neutrality law is the latest example of California, ground zero of the global technology industry, attempting to drive public policy outside its borders and rebuff President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Brown did not explain his reasons for signing the bill or comment on the federal lawsuit Sunday night.

Supporters of the new law cheered it as a win for internet freedom. It is set to take effect January 1.

“This is a historic day for California. A free and open internet is a cornerstone of 21st century life: our democracy, our economy, our health care and public safety systems, and day-to-day activities,” said Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener, the law’s author.

net neutrality
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks after signing a bill, March 5, 2018, in Olympia, Washington, that makes Washington the first state to set up its own net-neutrality requirements in response to the FCC’s recent repeal of Obama-era rules. VOA

It prohibits internet providers from blocking or slowing data based on content or from favoring websites or video streams from companies that pay extra.

Telecommunications companies lobbied hard to kill it or water it down, saying it would lead to higher internet and cellphone bills and discourage investments in faster internet. They say it’s unrealistic to expect them to comply with internet regulations that differ from state to state.

USTelecom, a telecommunications trade group, said California writing its own rules will create problems.

“Rather than 50 states stepping in with their own conflicting open internet solutions, we need Congress to step up with a national framework for the whole internet ecosystem and resolve this issue once and for all,” the group said in a Sunday statement.

Net Neutrality
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, center, announces the vote was approved to repeal net neutrality, next to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, left, who voted no, and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who voted yes, at the FCC, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Net neutrality advocates worry that without rules, internet providers could create fast lanes and slow lanes that favor their own sites and apps or make it harder for consumers to see content from competitors.

That could limit consumer choice or shut out upstart companies that can’t afford to buy access to the fast lane, critics say.

The new law also bans “zero rating,” in which internet providers don’t count certain content against a monthly data cap — generally video streams produced by the company’s own subsidiaries and partners.

Also Read: President Donald Trump is a Fool When It Comes To Environment: California Governer

Oregon, Washington and Vermont have approved legislation related to net neutrality, but California’s measure is seen as the most comprehensive attempt to codify the principle in a way that might survive a likely court challenge. An identical bill was introduced in New York. (VOA)