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Cells with an ear for music release insulin

"We will rock you": ETH Zurich researchers are developing a gene switch that triggers insulin release in designer cells by playing certain rock and pop songs.

Ambient noise does not trigger insulin secretion (left). Direct exposure of the cells to certain rock songs, on the other hand, triggers insulin release within minutes (right). (Visualisations: ETH Zurich)

In brief

  • For the first time, researchers are using music, including Queen's global hit "We will rock you," to stimulate insulin release from cells.
  • The insulin-​producing designer cells were equipped with an ion channel of a bacterium that reacts to mechanical stimuli like sound waves.
  • Only direct sonication of the cells at the right volume and pitch triggers insulin release within a few minutes.

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