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Science for the sake of science can be dangerous. (0, Troll)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | about 3 years ago | (#36697716)


I can see all sorts of dangers, just by skimming the article.

Imagine if these man-made monstrocities merged their DNA into the host's DNA. Then the person reproduces (as we tend to do). That child now has these neurons. Now think of a mutation that causes them to fire all willy-nilly when exposed to sunlight.

The kids would have to live in the basement their whole lives. If they breed, eventually this FrankenNeuron would contaminate the entire species. And I shudder to think of the implications for nerve issues and subluxations. I do know one thing for sure, some Chiros will rake in millions treating the victims of this insanity.

Re:Science for the sake of science can be dangerou (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36697752)

Someone who lives in the basement and never reproduces... reminds me of someone, but I can't remember who.

Re:Science for the sake of science can be dangerou (1)

durrr (1316311) | about 3 years ago | (#36697830)

The neurons would fire willy-nilly without any mutation when exposed to sunlight.
However, due to the cranium, skull or whatever you chose to call it being opaque to sunlight this doesn't happen.

Now of course I'm sure you can postulate some even bleaker catastrophe scenario that you can peddle to you luddite friends as a reason to ban optogenetics.

Re:Science for the sake of science can be dangerou (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 3 years ago | (#36699746)

Its interesting to see the way that, 5 minutes after learning the word "optogenetics" (at least in my case), we already see factions of staunchly pro and anti opto-genetic slashdotters forming the battle lines.

Im willing to bet that some of these articles are made up of whole cloth by the editors, just to see how many people will argue for and against the made-up topics.

Re:Science for the sake of science can be dangerou (1)

sadness203 (1539377) | about 3 years ago | (#36701664)

Nah nah nah, Bob,D.C. just jump on every thing with science to spill his garbage about subluxation and the benefit of chiropractic and how he can fix every disease and trouble of the human being from autism to cancer and probably the world hunger too.

Re:Science for the sake of science can be dangerou (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | about 3 years ago | (#36707646)

However, due to the cranium, skull or whatever you chose to call it being opaque to sunlight this doesn't happen.

Boy, I bet you'll be surprised when Plexiglas skull mods become all the rage with the younger set in 2025.

Re:Science for the sake of science can be dangerou (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36698030)

You know what, I call Poes Law on this guy.

There's no way you make a living convincing people you know a dman thing about biology if you think anything you just said makes any sence.

Re:Science for the sake of science can be dangerou (1)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | about 3 years ago | (#36698256)


Not sure that Poe had laws and I'm a fan of his work.

In any case, why doubt it? Viruses inject their DNA into cell, what's to say these FrankenNeurons can't do the same thing?

Re:Science for the sake of science can be dangerou (3, Informative)

sadness203 (1539377) | about 3 years ago | (#36698500)

A retrovirus is made to "attack" the DNA of a cell. A neuron is not made for that, it can't inject new DNA to other cells.

Plus, a neuron don't divide as other cells do. Well, it happen for specific type of neuron, but it mostly stem cells. So most of them don't divide, and if they do, they will divide as the same cell, with the same DNA markers.

You should try real science, instead of trying to scares people with random Hollywood scenarios.

Re:Science for the sake of science can be dangerou (1)

Korin43 (881732) | about 3 years ago | (#36698328)

Imagine if these man-made monstrocities merged their DNA
into the host's DNA. Then the person reproduces (as we tend to do). That
child now has these neurons.

Luckily, most people don't reproduce via brain cells.

Re:Science for the sake of science can be dangerou (1)

Hylandr (813770) | about 3 years ago | (#36698432)

I bet feeding on other humans blood might mitigate some of the side effects...

Isn't it dark in there? (5, Funny)

DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) | about 3 years ago | (#36697736)

They are already talking about the possibilities for therapy and behavior modification by optically stimulating specific brain circuits.

They can talk about it all they want, but until they invent a transparent skull, I'm not sure I see many practical applications.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36697784)

...obviously they would wire up connections through surgery and cell transplantation.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | about 3 years ago | (#36697798)

And isn't that a nice thought?

We're turning into a race of experimental subjects courtesy of Big Pharma and Big Med.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | about 3 years ago | (#36697850)

sad but true

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | about 3 years ago | (#36698302)

Turning? i think the public being eager and willing lab rats is part of their business model

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 3 years ago | (#36699768)

Im not sure MIT really counts as "Big Pharma".

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

durrr (1316311) | about 3 years ago | (#36697892)

Optogenetics have been around for a few years and have proved to work splendidly in mice. Now of course in mice the usual approach is to drill a hole in the skull and feed a fiber optic cable into it, for a human you would probably miniaturize some light emitting device and embedd it inside the skull.

The reason why optogenetics is so much better than electrodes is not only for the fact that you require physical electrode present to act as a growth area for scar tissue, but that you can target specific neurons with the gene therapy vector for a selective coverage. And you can do both inhibition and excitation(in the same cells, or different) with the technique, given the variety of opsins too you can even have very close neighbours that operate at different light wavelengths.

If the technique is refined and translated to humans it will most likely result in extremely good brain-computer-interface quality. Compare the old electrodes to flint knives and optogenetics to lndustrial laser cutters and you get the idea.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#36698778)

So do they just go through a ton of mice, or how are they dealing with all the problems of implants that pass through the skin?

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 years ago | (#36699942)

Yeah, They go through a ton of mice. Mice breed like... well, mice. 3-12 offspring every month or so, starting from age 6 weeks and going for about a year. A female mouse could easily be "bedded" by her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson and she could have over 35 million ancestors at that point.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 3 years ago | (#36697970)

The animals who get these neurons will have neat little windows cut into their skulls. They'll also live in labs.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 3 years ago | (#36698062)

You mean tiny rectangular rooms with controlled environments where the subjects feed at regular intervals and are trained to press buttons to receive tiny rewards.

Whoops! Gotta go type up that report or I won't get that bonus or that bigger cubicle down the hall.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | about 3 years ago | (#36698104)

You mean tiny rectangular rooms with controlled environments where the subjects feed at regular intervals and are trained to press buttons to receive tiny rewards.

Whoops! Gotta go type up that report or I won't get that bonus or that bigger cubicle down the hall.

I have to be honest, your first line made me think of MMOs first.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (2)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 3 years ago | (#36698186)

It's the biggest MMO there is, my friend. And it happened way before the internet or computers.

Cheers!

Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36699716)

Sign me up

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

njvack (646524) | about 3 years ago | (#36698484)

They are already talking about the possibilities for therapy and behavior modification by optically stimulating specific brain circuits.

They can talk about it all they want, but until they invent a transparent skull, I'm not sure I see many practical applications.

There are conditions (Parkinson's, epilepsy, severe depression) in which people get electrodes implanted in their brains, with (sometimes) therapeutic benefits. Optical stimulation can be much more precisely targeted and controlled -- with good DNA delivery vectors, you can target specific cell types, or the neurons connecting two brain regions. Optical stimulation, I believe, also causes less cell damage than direct electrical stimulation.

It's not the kind of thing most people will ever need, but if you have a condition that will probably only respond to brain surgery, this has a lot of potential.

Clinical trials are probably a long way off, though.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (2)

kikito (971480) | about 3 years ago | (#36698582)

Skin is actually light sensitive. Pain receptors are directly connected to neurons. It could be used for torture, if they found a way to replace regular sub-cutaneous skin neurons with photosensitive ones.

already done (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 3 years ago | (#36712478)

it's already done, but lower in the spectrum. 95GHz waves, or 3.2 mm ones are used in the "Pain Ray" to remotely provoke unbearable pain in an outer layer of the skin. It's sold as the way of the future to quell protests, though good old water cannon and bullets are cheaper. There's even a commercial [youtube.com] about it.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36698852)

You can alleviate Parkinson's disease by operating electrodes into the basal ganglia, but when you do that you stimulate all neuron types in the vincinity. With optogenetics you can genetically target a selected sub-types of neurons, increasing the specificity of your treatment.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36699382)

PROTIP: It's called EYES. And those neurons are called "cone cells" and "rod cells" (or just "photosensitive ganglion cells"). ;)

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

Urkki (668283) | about 3 years ago | (#36699556)

They can talk about it all they want, but until they invent a transparent skull, I'm not sure I see many practical applications.

Skull is transparent enough, you just need a bright enough light. Alternatively you need to open the skull. Sharks with lasers mounted to their heads can do both.

Re:Isn't it dark in there? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 3 years ago | (#36701950)

They are already talking about the possibilities for therapy and behavior modification by optically stimulating specific brain circuits.

They can talk about it all they want, but until they invent a transparent skull, I'm not sure I see many practical applications.

If you mean where the Sun does not shine, then you have omitted fiber optics.

I suppose it would stimulate "nerve flow" whatever that is.

Be Scared (1)

fygment (444210) | about 3 years ago | (#36702068)

From TFA:

"... the free end of the optical fiber is simply inserted into the brain of the live animal when needed, or coupled at the time of experimentation to an implanted optical fiber."

Could make for good cybernetics (1)

simon_clarkstone (750637) | about 3 years ago | (#36697968)

If making a reliable long-term electrical connection between neurons and circuitry continues to be as hard as it has been so far, then this technique could offer a superior way of coupling the brain to cybernetics. Neurons would only need to be near the input device, not need to be touching it. The brain would figure out what the signals meant just as easily.

Re:Could make for good cybernetics (1)

durrr (1316311) | about 3 years ago | (#36698142)

So far I don't think there's optogenetic tools to read output from neurons, just input methods. Although I'm willing to put my manhood at stake that voltage-triggered-fluorescent membrane proteins exist already in some form.
As for ordinary electrodes, it is getting easier all the time.

Re:Could make for good cybernetics (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about 3 years ago | (#36698476)

Can't put a finger on actual voltage triggered fluorescent proteins - but you can get voltage triggered structural change in membrane proteins, and from there it is just the problem of attaching a fluorescence label that is sensitive to it's environment and you should be able to grab a signal off it. Of course, implementing that in a living brain is another problem....

Re:Could make for good cybernetics (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 years ago | (#36702792)

Some deep-sea luminescent creatures I've seen videos of flicker their lights in surprisingly intricate patterns. Too fast for hormonal cotrol. I would guess neural. There is a nice starting point to sequence.

Another step toward the cartoon universe (4, Funny)

Rotifera (173297) | about 3 years ago | (#36698068)

where ideas are triggered by lightbulbs turning on inside our heads literally.

Aren't these just retina cells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36698076)

I remember being surprised when I found out that the human retina wasn't connected to the brain, but instead WAS a piece of the brain. It's made up of neurons that respond to light.

Wonder how this new breakthrough differs from the existing natural cells?

Re:Aren't these just retina cells? (1)

smelch (1988698) | about 3 years ago | (#36698390)

Well, the thing you're missing is that it is connected to the brain via the optic nerve. None of the image processing is done in the eye, it just signals the nerve which signals the brain to process. I'm not sure that simply being neurons qualifies the retinas as being part of the brain.

Re:Aren't these just retina cells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36699730)

There is a lot of processing before the nerve impulses reach the brain. The retina does edge-detection, shape detection, and motion detection. The optic nerves come together and the signals from the two eyes are compared and modified to emphasize spatial relationship between objects. So no, the brain is not soley responsible for perception. It starts in the eye.

Re:Aren't these just retina cells? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 3 years ago | (#36698536)

I had an amazing insight into this topic. But suddenly, there was this flash of light and I forgot it.

I do recall thinking that Will Smith does indeed make a back suit look good.

What could possibly go wrong? (1)

cHALiTO (101461) | about 3 years ago | (#36698152)

Light-sensitive genes... ok.

However, I'll start worrying if tomorrow they come up with something that provokes serious mutations when fed after midnight.

put them in my hands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36698154)

and i can feel light

Magnetogenetics (1)

FiveTenMatt (943867) | about 3 years ago | (#36698168)

An alternative technique to Optogenetics is called Magnetogenetics, which in my opinion may have even more clinical relevance. In optogenetics, viral vectors are used to transfect the opsin of choice in the neuronal population of choice, and then those neurons can be stimulated by the wavelength of light specific to that opsin. The newer and less well known technique of Magnetogenetics, uses viral vectors to transfect a specific ion channel that opens in response to magnetic stimulation of a certain frequency (see http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/v5/n8/fig_tab/nnano.2010.163_F1.html [nature.com] ). This means that once the virus was injected and the new receptor in place, stimulation can be done with a "magic wand" type stimulator, and wouldn't require fiber optics to be implanted in the brain or mounted to the skull. This would be considerably easier to use from a treatment perspective, and would have less room for hardware failure, etc. Of course, it would also be easier for a non-medical professional to activate such a system... Clearly more work needs to be done in both fields, and it's certainly an exciting time to be in neuroscience!

Re:Magnetogenetics (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 3 years ago | (#36698210)

Of course, having one's memory wiped by getting too close to a magnet *is* an unfortunate side effect.

Re:Magnetogenetics (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about 3 years ago | (#36698280)

Hah, I recall a story my NMR prof told in one of his lectures. Back in the 50s, when biomolecular NMR just started out, the theory that memory was based on magnetic fields had been floating around. One of the early masters of NMR thought it was bullshit, and proceeded to stick his head into a magnet assembly producing a field of a couple of Tesla, just to prove his point. Fortunately for him, he proved to be right.

Re:Magnetogenetics (1)

FiveTenMatt (943867) | about 3 years ago | (#36698374)

That might be blowing the effectiveness of the tool out of proportion a bit. For one thing, "memory" is spread over numerous regions of the brain, among hundreds of different neuronal and non-neuronal cell types. Simply affecting one type via magnetogenetics would likely not have too much of an impact on something this complex. However, stimulating dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra of a parkinsons patient using a tool such as this would theoretically restore motor function similarly to deep brain stimulation (which currently has FDA approval). Erasing memories may not be a bad thing either. Think of all the help that could be given to PSTD patients...

Re:Magnetogenetics (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 years ago | (#36702796)

Patients would work out where they need to tape a magnet to get high?

Dollhouse? (1)

kungfugleek (1314949) | about 3 years ago | (#36698182)

Not sure the lights in the chair were bright enough, but I thought the concept was silly, at the time....

Re:Dollhouse? (1)

net28573 (1516385) | about 3 years ago | (#36701616)

Finally someone brought it up! Its so hard to find people who have watched that show. Btw, I enjoy my treatments, and "there are three flowers in a vase, the third one is green".

New? (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about 3 years ago | (#36698308)

I don't have the paper at hand, but I recall reading about optically activated neurons being created in a mouse model years ago. Leave a hole in the skull, connect with fibre optics and activate at will. I'd have to dig through my files to find the proper citation, though - so I might be mistaken, but this sounds awfully familiar.

TSA? (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | about 3 years ago | (#36698322)

Kinda makes you more weary of TSA scanners, doesn't it? Light is not just visible light. Radio waves are light waves, just at a different frequency.

Next time you go through a scanner and you suddenly think, "Hmmm, can I haz cheezburger?" think about if that impulse was internally or externally generated.

As much Deisseroth at Stanford as Boyden at MIT (3, Informative)

njvack (646524) | about 3 years ago | (#36698362)

The summary is a bit remiss in not mentioning Karl Deisseroth's group at Stanford, who have really made this technique practical. I'm at a different (also good) neuroscience lab, and his group's work looks like magic to me -- they've crossed a lot of t's and dotted a lot of i's. It's really, really elegant, and has a lot of therapeutic potential in humans.

They've made a great video showing optical control of a mouse's motor cortex [youtube.com] , and the lab's main optogenetics page [stanford.edu] has some publications.

Re:As much Deisseroth at Stanford as Boyden at MIT (3, Informative)

macwhizkid (864124) | about 3 years ago | (#36699248)

Article does mention Karl Deisseroth, just mainly by first name. But yes, Deisseroth's research group pioneered most of this research, which truly is spectacularly cool.

Here's a Wired article from last year [wired.com] that explains optogenetics in prose more familiar to the average Slashdot user. And a YouTube video [youtube.com] of Deisseroth giving an overview of his work.

I've been lucky enough to see Deisseroth speak a couple of times (always in a packed auditorium). The pace at which he displays his results and the value of the results themselves is almost mind-boggling. He'll talk about a really great result they got with an experiment inhibiting fear in mice (if I recall, they targeted the amygdala and then showed the animal hiding in corners of the cage until they turn on the laser and he runs across the open space) and then before you can wrap your brain around it he's already moved on to talking about revolutionizing Parkinson's research by selectively inhibiting dopaminergic neurons.

As if inventing a groundbreaking technique and using it to solve all kinds of interesting problems isn't enough, Deisseroth has also been very proactive about sharing his techniques and methods, to the point that his lab actually holds workshops for other neuroscientists to learn how to do similar work. A pretty awesome guy all around, and I suspect he'll be the recipient of a Nobel Prize before too long.

Re:As much Deisseroth at Stanford as Boyden at MIT (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 3 years ago | (#36702056)

So far this is the only intelligent comment. Congratulations.

Re:As much Deisseroth at Stanford as Boyden at MIT (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | about 3 years ago | (#36706330)

They've made a great video showing optical control of a mouse's motor cortex,

OK IAAS (I Am A Scientist) and I can appreciate the potential for good with this research but watching that video... it's just a little creepy to see a living animal quite literally turned into a robot. Maybe it's just watching too many episodes of STNG. OTOH I bet there are (some) military and covert agency types who got a hardon watching it.

New means of control? (1)

lolococo (574827) | about 3 years ago | (#36698434)

I for one welcome our new shiny overlords

In related news ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 3 years ago | (#36698492)

... scientists are close to a breakthrough in introducing light into the dank recesses of your parents' basement.

So, Slashdotters. Beware!

Tomorrow's Weapon of Mass Destruction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36698560)

Well, I can see it now. Tomorrows weapon of mass destruction will be a giant flashlight with flashing colored lights. You could have one setting for stun, one for disable and the ultimate kill setting!

Resistance is futile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36698568)

Behavior modification.
Of whom?
By whom?

I'm singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | about 3 years ago | (#36698638)

I'm sure Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Khadafy, Ceaucescu, Honecker, Ulbricht, Saddam, et. al. would have really enjoyed this technology. I'm sure that others will too.

Re:I'm singin' in the rain, just singin' in the ra (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36702984)

Kim Il-Sung in particular.

third eye (1)

strack (1051390) | about 3 years ago | (#36699186)

so i guess ill be getting a fourth eye soon.

Hold your horses there, cowboy (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 3 years ago | (#36699514)

Scientists at MIT and other labs

read: other, insignificant to mention here, labs

They are already talking about the possibilities

the TFA is a guy talking about himself. "I this and I that"

announcing that ChR2 could be used to depolarize neurons

Well done. This, along with 213875684375925 other compounds.

viruses bearing genes

Now I ain't no more grammar nazi than the next guy, but a neuroscientist that writes history and coins up new terms certainly knows what the plural of 'virus' is.

As a case study, the birth of optogenetics

Yea, right- vanity at its best. Just keep up your part of your job, which is doing your job, and leave the grandiose historic naming of historic moments to historians, which is not your job.

A little modesty never hurt anybody

Re:Hold your horses there, cowboy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36699792)

The plural of virus is viruses. What was your point?

Oblig. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36700056)

I for one welcome our flashlight-snorting overlords.

Finally ... Control of Bad People. (1)

fygment (444210) | about 3 years ago | (#36702210)

Using viruses (see TFA) to implant the necessary genetic changes to motor neurons, prisoners and other bad people can be 'prepared' for control by authorities ... but then so could we all, without our knowledge or consent ... even at birth.

What is really chilling is the sense that the articles author sees nothing wrong with controlling a brain. Of course it would be hard for him to see past his ego.

Optical fiber in brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36703970)

OK, so when can I stick optical cable behind my ear and have all the latest lulz right in my head?

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