Is magnetogenetics the new optogenetics?

EMBO J. 2017 Jun 14;36(12):1643-1646. doi: 10.15252/embj.201797177. Epub 2017 May 23.


Optogenetics has revolutionised neuroscience as it enables investigators to establish causal relationships between neuronal activity and a behavioural outcome in a temporally precise manner. It is a powerful technology, but limited by the necessity to deliver light to the cells of interest, which often requires invasive surgery and a tethered light source. Magnetogenetics aims to overcome these issues by manipulating neurons with magnetic stimuli. As magnetic fields can pass freely through organic tissue, it requires no surgery or tethering the animals to an energy source. In this commentary, we assess the utility of magnetogenetics based on three different approaches: magneto‐thermo‐genetics; force/torque‐based methods; and expression of the iron chaperone ISCA1. Despite some progress, many hurdles need to be overcome if magnetogenetics is to take the helm from optogenetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / chemistry*
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / genetics*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics*
  • Optogenetics / methods*
  • Optogenetics / trends*


  • ISCA1 protein, human
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins