Blue light could cure diabetes

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Over the past several years, genetics researchers have made great strides using optogenetics — the manipulation of genes with different colors of light — and now we're starting to see this new field mature into potential therapies. A group of Swiss researchers published a paper in Science this week explaining how they could use doses of blue light to regulate the glucose levels of people suffering from diabetes.

The researchers would do it by completely reengineering batches of cells so that they are light-sensitive. In the case of this study, led by Martin Fussenegger, the scientists added genes from eye cells to kidney cells, effectively making the kidney cells light-sensitive. Then they wired the cells up with tiny optical fibers and implanted them in diabetic mice. Fussenegger could send pulses of blue light directly to the cells using these fibers. The light, in turn, will trigger certain genes to become active.


According to Jennifer Carpenter, writing for BBC News:

In the dark, these cells behaved as usual; In the light, however, genes in the cell were switched on and the cell pumped out a protein required for the breakdown of sugars in the blood, helping the mice to control their glucose levels.

He hopes that cells like these could ultimately be implanted into people, and exposed to light - either through the skin or down a optic fibre - to release proteins that would help treat diabetes.


In twenty years, we could be treating a whole range of genetic disorders with light.

Read the scientific article via Science