Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'Star Trek-like' device paralyzes animals

Canadian scientists say they've created a science fiction-like technology that paralyzes animals by exposing them to a beam of ultraviolet light.

The researchers at Simon Fraser University say the animals remain paralyzed until they are exposed to ordinary light. They said the achievement marks the first demonstration of such a light-activated switch in animals.

Professor Neil Branda and colleagues said internal light-sensitive materials that undergo photoreactions have been available for years. But in the new study, the researchers developed and successfully tested photoswitching materials composed of dithienylethene, a light-sensitive substance.

The scientists said they grew transparent, pinhead-sized worms (C. elegans) and fed them dithienylethene. When exposed to ultraviolet light, the worms turned blue and became paralyzed. When exposed to visible light, the dithienylethene became colorless again and the worms' paralysis ended.

The complex research is detailed in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.