A group of scientists recently created a genuine mouse cyborg. It’s only a matter of time until those same advances are applied to humans.
How do you make a cyborg?
High on the list of requirements would be “a technology that allows targeted, fast control of precisely defined events in biological systems.” This technology now exists, although not exactly as it was envisioned on television in the ’70s. Today, the Six Million Dollar Man’s bionic enhancements would involve optogenetics—a technology based on a mix of micron-scale electronics, designer viruses, and a set of light-activated proteins taken from aquatic microorganisms.
Optogenetics was invented in 2005 when a group of scientists at Stanford University showed that they could control rat neurons using a light-activated protein transplanted from green algae. The killer feature of this algal protein is that, when activated by light, it generates an electrical current. In green algae, this light-sensing protein converts light energy into an electrical current as part of the process of harvesting energy from sunlight; transplanted into neurons, that same protein induces an electrical current that will trigger those neurons to fire. In other words, by simply expressing one new protein in neurons, scientists can control brain functions using beams of light.