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UC Berkeley Announces First "Bionic Chip"

emmett posted more than 14 years ago | from the stronger-faster dept.

Science 126

ebibe writes, "Researchers at UC Berkeley will announce successfully creating the 'bionic chip.' Part living tissue, part machine, this chip is the first in which a biological cell is part of the actual electronic circuitry. The chip, which took three years to build using silicon microfabrication technology, has a wide range of potential uses, including new ways to treat genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis or diabetes, safer methods to test new pharmaceuticals for side effects and more complex bionic electronic circuitry. View the entire press release here."

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i wonder? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233248)

is this thing grits resistant? i mean, if i got one implanted 'down there' i hope it would withstand hots grits being poured on it...

Yeah, but does it make that cool Bionic Man sound? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233249)


Re:Not a computational device? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233250)

Mabe they can make it into a memory device that literally "Grows" to make super hard drives (would this require brain tissue?) Hmmf.

Re:And What Comes Next... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233251)

resistance is futile


Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233252)


you ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233253)

You just wasted a half hour of your life. You're so gay.

I think it's an avalanche diode... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233254)

like a zener, or a tunnel diode. It could even be a trollode. I could be wrong.

This is just what I need (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233255)

to be able to pour more grits down my pants, pouring them faster than humanly possible. Levi's is going to have to improve on the grit capacity of jeans, or I'm going to have a real problem.

I'll settle for an adamantium skeleton. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233256)

...plus superduper senses and immune system. I mean, how many robots / cyborgs has wolverine trashed in his life?

Re:Its Borg!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233257)

Resistance is futile!!

dont be so fucking rude. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233259)

You forgot to say "thank you."

yeah... ok... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233260)

Ok, after they spend billions of dollars in research let's make sure they have no way to recoup that money. Good plan. If you don't want to send "amerika" your money, open your own research firm elsewhere, you dumbass.

There is quite a difference between someone patenting something obvious and simple (amazon) and someone patenting something complex, into which they have invested huge amounts of time, effort, and money (berkley).

Re:Gives me the heebie-jeebies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233261)

Three lipstick lesbo cunt and butt plug with extremely large toys, a brunette gets blasted by the goo of two able studs and a hot young blond takes a throbbing ten inches to the base! All this and more in this slut-filled four hours of Super Clips.

Re:Pricey... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233262)

screw linux it'd have to be something a little more expensive than free for 6 million... i'd rather them lower the price give no o/s and think my own up for it :P

Re:Not a computational device? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233263)

something we can use convicts on deathrow and pedofiles for cool... that and the sickly... bah wait for them to die and you got dead brain... no good for me I'd rather a nice fresh one... mebbe make those vegetable people useful... oh wait dead brain... or at least most of it


Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233264)

my troll has much higher karma than you and i post to -1 by default (cmdrboffo must not like me).

Moderators on Crack binge again (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1233272)

Slashdot moderators are notoriously obsessed with crack and other mind-alterind substances. Hence they waste their points moderating down worthy posts because they are bored. Even though there is a whole sea of trolls to moderate. Can't we screen our moderators? Give them a psych test, and if they're stupid don't give them any points? please?

Re:Read the release, heading is misleading (1)

Zagadka (6641) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233275)

Anybody see the movie Gattica?

Actually, it's Gattaca [imdb.com]. The title only has four letters: G, A, T and C.

But the trouble in Gattaca wasn't with corporations misusing the technology. It was with society not accepting those who weren't altered by the technology.

Yesssss! (1)

pen (7191) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233276)

Am I the only one who understands what this means?! No more condoms! Just put up a net of sperm- (or egg-) killing cells/nanites, and you're set!



Cell replacement service needed (2)

doomy (7461) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233277)

Oh darn! my living cell microchip is dead..

"Hey there sir, would you care come over here and bend, I need a tiny prostrate cell if you dont mind"


Interesting technology (3)

Ravenscall (12240) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233279)

This is an interesting technology, and I wionder about the other uses beyond genetic engineering. What with the new work they are doing with stem cells to combat diabetes (http://www.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/02/28/health.stemc ells.reut/index.html) such ' smart cells' if you will, could be genetically altered to introduce all manners of items int a subject. Think of a genetically altered cell made to produce insulin with the chip controlling the flow based on blood sugar for diabetics. Another thing to watch though is how the immune system reacts to these items.

Re:I think it's an avalanche diode... (2)

Roofus (15591) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233281)

From what the guy you replied to describes, that would be a zener diode.

Patent brilliancies, yet again... (1)

mindslip (16677) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233283)

The press release forgot the sentence:

"...then, in a move about as brilliant as sticking your head in a vat of boiling oil, the university went ahead and applied for a patent on this so that no one in the human race can benefit without someone in amerika becoming rich off it."

I keep finding more and more reasons to hate the usa. C'mon for fsck's sake... this is UNIVERSITY RESEARCH, and it's *vital* technology to mankind. Get your greed out of the picture.


Been there (0)

Kaufmann (16976) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233284)

Someone else has already mentioned this, but he got moderated down and won't be seen, so I'll say it again: this story was on Slashdot on 26/02 ("Mating human cells with circuitry"). Way to go.

Re:Read the release, heading is misleading (2)

Kaufmann (16976) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233285)

The title only has four letters: G, A, T and C

... which just happen to be the initials of the four nitrogen bases which make up DNA. Is it possible that I was the only one who noticed that? Naah.

Ars Techinica has the bad news... (2)

kerouac (18850) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233286)

They STILL haven't worked out that bug that made Lee Majors (and Farrah) sound like a turbine
everytime they ran and stuff.

beware the BFOD (1)

Evro (18923) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233287)

When your lungs stop working because of the BSOD, you'll get a bad case of BFOD (blue face of death).

Imagine the effect UCITA would have on the software that runs these things? "His heart stopped because we forgot to close a parenthesis? Oh well, according to the EULA we're not responsible! Sorry, chuck! Better luck next time!"


Re:At Last! (1)

weaver (22514) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233288)

Perhaps if these chips were compuational devices. They are micro labs, used to study cells (the cell is a diode, at best).

No embedded CPU's here.


Not really computation (3)

weaver (22514) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233289)

According to the press release, the cell is not a computational unit, but rather the subject of the chip. The chip allows the researcher to 'open' the cell membrane on command.

The possibilities of drug testing, genetic research, and just plain science are impressive. I wonder if the knowledge of how specific voltages open cell membranes could be used in nano tech work. Imagine a 'bionic' chip used to open cell membranes to allow the nanites to enter harmlessly.

To take it a bit further, imagine larger nanites that open cells in situ allowing smaller nanites to slip in to do their work (or proteins or some such). Very cool.

I expect it'll be a bit for any real applications come out of this, however.

Take care,

Re:Not really computation (1)

cave76 (25851) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233290)

It is a very interesting concept. In theory, it would be very useful, as mentioned, in cystic fibrosis, etc. But I would worry about the effects of having a device within a tissue that is carrying a current. I would imaging that in an actual tissue, the voltage would stimulate nearby nerves...which wouldn't take much...which could result in all sorts of arythmias, ventilation problems, problems in regulation of blood flow to organs, and lots of others. I don't see how they could work around this unless the chip itself could somehow be placed outside the body tissues, as a pacemaker is.


Re:Read the release, heading is misleading (1)

rmull (26174) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233291)

No, you're not the only one. If I remember, the title sequence in the film makes that pretty obvious. But I might just be pulling that out of a different orifice.

DNA...wow (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233292)

They think this will let them introduce DNA into a cell? Good. It will be nice to be able to do genetic engineering without having to use a virus to penetrate the cell.

Bionic chips. (4)

Matt2000 (29624) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233295)

"...researchers announced that the new sophisticated chips could be on the market as early as next year and would have a wider range of more powerful flavours. The Sour cream and onion variety will be released at 9x its original flavour, while BBQ should be over 11x. Researchers say that the flavour multiple should increase rapidly as they move to a 0.1 mm ruffle process.

Hostess' law states that flavour will double every 18 months while number of chips in a bag will half. Researchers have been worried lately that they may have been reaching the physical limits of flavour packing, but these newly announced bionic technologies should allow for further improvements."

Hotnutz.com [hotnutz.com] - Funny

That's nothing... (2)

JatTDB (29747) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233296)

There's so many dirty glasses, plates, bottles, and other assorted trash around my (non-covered) box that there's gotta be all sorts of microbes growing inside my box...and given the fast evolutionary cycle of microorganisms, I'm sure there's at least a few that have learned to integrate with my machine. At least it gives me something to blame wierd shit on.

Some thoughts... (5)

British (51765) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233300)

Hey I can't wait until i can instal linu..... naw, too easy.

Oh great, this is the beginnings of the bor.... nope, too geeky.

Hey I could turn myself into a human Beowu.... nahh, too abstract.

What would happen if a vir..... uh uh, too obscure.

What would happen if this ran Windo..... ah screw it.

Read the release, heading is misleading (5)

be-fan (61476) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233301)

The heading (actually the title given to it by the university) is a little misleading. What we have here is not biological computing devices, for example like the ones that use a slugs brain cell to compute, but a new way to get at the cell. It will probably be more usefull to genetic engineering than anything else. (It says the cell opens and closes in a millisecond, which is an aweful long time.) That out of the way, I think this is really what is needed to take genetic engineering to the next level. By having a "door" as the article put it, into the cell, genetic engineering can take place much more easily. Although this current technology of integrating the cell into a chip will be great for experiments, this technoglogy can also be taken to the point where cells can be operated on directly, perhaps with some sort of probe. This does, however, raise again the ugly question of ethics and science. Anybody see the movie Gattica? (An awesome movie by the way) If something goes wrong with this technology (ie corperations get a hold of it before educational institutions) then Gattica might not seem so much like science fiction.

Not a computational device? (1)

Silicon_Knight (66140) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233303)

Hrm... I guess computer viruses now have a new meaning.

But, seriously... if they can use this to manupulate DNA in cells, can't they use this as a "processor" enviroment for DNA computing? There are problems that can be solved much quicker using DNA computing than traditional silicon approach.

-=- SiKnight

More comments.... (1)

smallstar (68747) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233304)

To read more comments on this, click here [slashdot.org]. (It's a link to the same story posted by CmdrTaco a week ago).

Re:Been there, seen that (0)

BMIComp (87596) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233306)

Hmmm, but lets see... if I was a moderator... sure, I'd moderate that redundant, but then again... i'd moderate you as offtopic! =P

But keep in mind, replying to something that is offtopic usually gets you moderated too... oops.

Ramblings (0)

BMIComp (87596) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233307)

Sure, a nice invention... but it'll never be as good as my perpetual motion machine, which was discreted by those damn scientists... YOU PHYSICISTS HAVE TO LEARN THAT THE LAWS OF THERMONUCLEAR PHYSICS DON'T ALWAYS APPLY!#)$*^&@#

Sounds interesting... (1)

Eruantalon (87981) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233308)

but what would this really open up as possible? The press release doesn't say much about implications. Still, I'd assume it'll be years before anything useful hits any market other than the government.

Oh, and an off-topic section: I'm posting this using M14, and besides the fonts, I must say it's pretty damn good.


Re:At Last! (1)

Eruantalon (87981) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233309)

Aw sweet - I can imagine running around in a fully-interactive Quake arena using nothing but yourself and a few thousand of these bionic chips. Now that would be a useful implementation...


Re:At Last! (3)

Eruantalon (87981) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233310)

Yeah, I read that after posting. Guess I'll have to read first from now on...

Anyways, so since it seems that this will be more beneficial to genetic engineering than anything else, I wonder if we should be worried about this. It'll probably be used to research diseases, cell functions, genetics & genetic defaults. Still, I can see problems with religious groups, crazies trying to engineer new diseases to wipe us off the face of the earth, and (even less likely) secret government studies trying to biologically control us all. But seriously, I'm sure there'll be some well-founded moral objections to the technology. Besides, research in human cloning became illegal in the USA soon after Dolly, why shoule we expect this technology to stay legal? All it needs is some lab somewhere in the world to start making genetic changes, and religious/moral groups will be all over the government to make this illegal as well.


It's slavery! (2)

Tim Behrendsen (89573) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233311)

What kind of civilization do we have that we celebrate a poor living cell being forced to be a gateway for electrical current. How do we know that these cells don't long to be free, to be able to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of Amoeba happiness?

I am appalled. Appalled! We must storm the lab, and free these poor nuclei from the savage brutality of bondage.

Who's with me? Light your torches, and follow me! FOLLOW ME!!


Re:Not really computation (1)

MicroBerto (91055) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233312)

According to the press release, the cell is not a computational unit, but rather the subject of the chip. The chip allows the researcher to 'open' the cell membrane on command.

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
open(CELL, ">the_cell");
print CELL "happy membrane! die cancer!";
close(CELL); #not necessary, but i like it.

Mike Roberto
- roberto@apk.net
-- AOL IM: MicroBerto

Re:Not really computation (1)

MicroBerto (91055) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233313)

"According to the press release, the cell is not a computational unit, but rather the subject of the chip. The chip allows the researcher to 'open' the cell membrane on command."

#include "fstream.h"

int main()
ostream out_file;
out_file "Happy membrane! Die Cancer!"; // i forget if this syntax is right
return 0; // return YO MAMA! HAHA

note - why isn't slashdot letting me post my brackets? my cout can't work!

Mike Roberto
- roberto@apk.net
-- AOL IM: MicroBerto

Can I get a mute button soon? (3)

MicroBerto (91055) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233314)

It has been my goal to get a mute button for my ears, think this will help? How great would it be when there are idiots blabbin and i don't wanna hear it, to just hit a little button behind your ear and have dead SILENCE? I can't wait.. :)

Mike Roberto
- roberto@apk.net
-- AOL IM: MicroBerto

Gives me the heebie-jeebies... (2)

Count Spatula (103735) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233318)

However, I am definitely for more experimentation and research in bionics. The scary part is Pentagon involvement. Or any military institute, for that matter. I would not be at all suprised to see further research in bionics declared "secret" by the State Dept., simply so they can get direct military applications from any future advancements, and deny information to the "Red Menace". Let's all hope that it doesn't happen this way.

In the mean time, sign me up for Wired Reflexes (L2), Datajack and Skillwires (L1)...

Re:Gives me the heebie-jeebies... (1)

Fruan (105302) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233319)

>>In the mean time, sign me up for Wired Reflexes (L2), Datajack and Skillwires (L1)...

Jeeze! that is going to *screw* your essence!

I would much rather be able to play with the fabric of space/time with my mind than have bits of metal stuck in me :o)

FEED ME!! (1)

the phantom (107624) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233321)

Wow, this brings new meaning to the Tomogochi :) You could acctually create a "digital pet" that requires feeding, bathroom breaks, etc. Just don't tell my younger sister, though, because I really don't have the money to get her one of these for her birthday this year.

Re:Yesssss! (1)

the phantom (107624) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233322)

I hate to burst your bubble (or con... oh, nevermind), but you still have other things to worry about, like, say AIDS.

change of cell types? squid perhaps? (1)

quick_dry_3 (112334) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233324)

While the biochip is really more useful for bio/genetic enginbeering purposes, surely it would be possible to change the cell type to obtain a chip useful in more situations - ie faster rate of change.

For many applications, a millisecond is just too long, if instead a nerve cell, say a squid's - which are amongst the very fastest (its in a New Scientist from a year ago) were to be used, then the chip could become more than simply a slow acting gateway for mostly gene therapy purposes.

of course, now that I think of it, except for these purposes, what are you going to do with it?

Re:And What Comes Next... (1)

purefizz (114470) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233326)

This may sound a bit scary, but the one of the main purposes of such a device was to aid gene therapy. So, if you think about the possible cancer cures out there... this may be a huge blessing. However, gene therapy may have some alternate destructive uses as well. I'm sure the FDA would intervene if anybody tried to go too far.

Personally, I think human dna mapping projects could be a lot scarier. Gattaca may have been an extrapolation of existing events at the time of it's creation, however, the predicition may not end up being too far off the mark!

Visit uMoo - http://www.uMoo.com/ [umoo.com] Yeah, more useless junk...

Refining an old technique (4)

Jello7 (119778) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233327)

The "bionic chip" is basically improving on an older technique commonly used in molecular biology called electroporation. Basically, a cell is shocked with electricity and pores open up in the cell membrane. This is usually done to allow large biomolecules to enter the cell, such as engineered DNA. The problem with this approach is that it is usually done quite crudely with not much fine-grain control. This new chip gives us this computerized fine control.

The way I see it, the "bionic chip" technology will be useful mainly in gene therapy, not as much in genetic engineering (there are already easy enough ways to engineer genes). For a patient with a genetic disorder, like cystic fibrosis for example, a sample of lung tissue cells could be taken and a working copy of the CFTR chloride channel protein gene could be introduced. The cells would hopefully start producing proper protein and would then be re-introduced to the lung, where it would hopefully have a positive effect.

Re:Can I get a mute button soon? (1)

anotherone (132088) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233328)

How about an MP3 player? screw silence, let's get some Rage Against The Machine going in my head!

Make Seven

Let's home it's embeded OS is stable. (3)

kwsNI (133721) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233330)

Just think, if the chip has Windows installed as the embedded OS, we'd be in trouble. I'd hate for a critical bio-organ to have a fatal exception in the middle of doing something.

Oh shit, my heart has stopped responding. It may be busy waiting for the End Task Dialog box to come up. Press any key to wait or Ctrl-Alt-Del to restart.


Ladies and Gentleman, the $65 man! (2)

BiggestPOS (139071) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233333)

Ok i want the laser eye, the unbreakable skeleton, and a suit like spawns. Upgrade? Yeah, i'll go ahead and bump up to the LS model for the sunroof and cd player.

At Last! (1)

jailbrekr2 (139577) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233334)

I can finally fufile my dream of getting pectoral implants, among other things.....

Alternately, imagine combining this technology with 802.11 wireless. Who needs a wireless mouse or keyboard? Hell, I wouldn't even need my pectoral implants.


NOT a diode; more like a 'diac' IIRC (2)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233335)

a diode conducts current in only one direction.

I believe a back-to-back pair of diodes (one forward- and one reverse-biased, wrt the first one) have the property of not conducting current until a threshold voltage is reached. and once reached, current flows in both directions.

so I think its not accurate to call a cell a 'diode'.

maybe you could call it a pair of diodes ;-)


Since when (-1, Flamebait) (2)

uebernewby (149493) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233339)

Since when is stating the obvious flamebait?

Fact: this same story was posted here on 26/02 (`Mating human cells with circuitry).
It was rightly posted here. It's an interesting topic.
Then if it's posted here AGAIN the message that points out it was posted before is considered to be flamebait?
I understand the need for moderation, but this is fucked. Betcha it was the guy who posted the story who moderated the original comment down.

Been there, seen that (4)

uebernewby (149493) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233340)

Yup, it's inspiring news to be sure. Too bad the same story was also posted here on Slashdot on feb. 26 (Mating human cells with circuitry).
Goes to show story submissions should be moderated as well: -1 redundant.

Re:DNA...wow (1)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233341)

the purpose of using a virus as a vector to introduce new genes in a cell is that they can change MANY cells in a short amount of time. unless you plan on inserting cells one by one into this chip.....

This is old news (0)

trollking (153214) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233342)

Was not this already posted here? I heard about this on CNN a week ago.
Thank You,
Troll King

Re:Can I get a mute button soon? (1)

djrogers (153854) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233345)

I'd actually prefer a /. style moderator gizmo.. imagine, being able to moderate your boss down so nobody could hear him!

300 dpi? (0)

fabjep (154553) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233346)

I know this is really irrelevant, but I thought the first "300 dpi" picture was really funny. Apparently they know how to zoom in photoshop.

Re:Cell replacement service needed (1)

fabjep (154553) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233347)

Yeah! Prostrate cells. Knock those little buggers over. - good natured fun-poke

Re:Can I get a mute button soon? (1)

Ig0r (154739) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233348)

I think, given enough practice, a nice, strong hammer blow to the ears would give the desired effect. :)
Of course, when they're blabbing, and you have a hammer in your hand...

alrighty then! (1)

DeXtR (154814) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233349)

hey when do we start seeing, the start treck borgs showing up? im just curious. we're not that far ahead now

a martyr once again (0)

Jesus Christ (154953) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233350)

Wow, these are some high-quality comments. Not a troll in sight... until now. I have decided to die on the karma cross for your sins. Here goes:

Check out this ASCII PUSSY: {O}
Check out this ASCII PUSSY: {O}
Check out this ASCII PUSSY: {O}
Check out this ASCII PUSSY: {O}
Check out this ASCII PUSSY: {O}
Check out this ASCII PUSSY: {O}
I want some of that!!

Moderators: I think that this is "offtopic". Not "flamebait", you fucking morons. Oops, now I guess it could be either one. Just moderate me down and get it over with.

I am the Lord.

Re:First (0)

troller (157135) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233363)

This is stoopid.

Something is wrong: parent=54 dups=1 discussion=00/03/01/1732203

Duplicate. Did you submit twice?

Let us know if anything exceptionally strange happens

What's with these annoying messages? All I wanted to do was to say "!".

Re:DNA...wow (1)

maastrictian (157848) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233372)

The points the other responce to this post brought up were correct. Additional problems are:

Sure, you can introduce DNA through a cell membrane.. but you can't get it into the nucleus where it will do any good (at least in eukaryotes)

Even if you could get it into the nucleaus, unless the DNA is spliced into existing DNA nothing is going to be done to it.

Virus's do both these things for you.

Re:Read the release, heading is misleading (1)

Bruce Parens (158315) | more than 14 years ago | (#1233373)

In itself, this is also a spectacular opportunity. Initial reaction to the first biological diode will make possible. The reason this is relatively easily forestalled by maintaining compatibility (and consequently lowering both entry barriers are the first part of the chip and act as a diode. An almost equally important payoff of open source is likely to have ownership of a relatively weak prop the sale value couples strongly to development and the bazaar development communities. The pragmatist values having good tools and fun toys and an interesting explanation for the first question, few or none for the era, lots of universities bought them.



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