Scientists engineer a light-controlled worm

Scientists have engineered a worm with neurons that respond to light, making it a living bio-bot.

Scientists at Harvard, The University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School were pleased to announce on January 18th that humanity has begun its long decline into soulless, mindless, miserable flesh-puppetry. A worm has been engineered so it can manipulated using pulses of light. There are no wires or electric modifications necessary. The worm can simply be steered using focused, directed light.

This worm is only a first step towards a planet full of pre-hacked human automatons, being far more simple than humans. Caenorhabditis elegans is only a millimeter long, has a nervous system of only 302 neurons, and is transparent. This transparency allows scientists to see every neuron in its body, and set them off with a precisely directed electrical charge. That, apparently, was godlike enough for the researchers. They didn't want to control their worm with a bunch of electrodes – they wanted to control it with a flashlight.

The worm was genetically modified so its neurons were partially comprised of channelrhodopsin-2 and halorhodopsin. These two proteins are light-activated, and go off when exposed to certain kinds of light. The scientist then used lasers and mirrors to make the worm feel and do what they wanted.

Oblivious to his part in the demise of the human spirit, of Harvard had this to say:

"If you shine blue light at a particular neuron near the front end of the worm, it perceives that as being touched and will back away. Similarly, blue light shined at the tail end of the modified worm will prompt it to move forward."

They also managed to get the worm to lay an egg. That's right, in the near future, disco balls won't just be for mood lighting and ironic tackiness anymore. They'll be pairing you off with your dance partner. Don't want to become a bio-bot, helplessly stuck in a body you can't control? Learn to live in the dark.

[Via Nature Methods]