Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Scientists Can Now Grow Brain Cells In The Lab

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the too-bad-tim-has-no-mature-brain-cells dept.

Biotech 81

H_Fisher writes "Scientists in Florida have grown mature brain cells in the laboratory, a scientific first. The Independent reports that "[...]they were able to produce virtually unlimited quantities of brain cells, which could revolutionise transplant medicine as well as leading to new drugs to stimulate the regrowth of damaged nerves." This could be a milestone in the treatment of Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's, and many other illnesses and injuries."

cancel ×

81 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Mine will be happy (4, Funny)

qurk (87195) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819109)

Friends! They have been getting pretty lonely.

Zombie Food (2, Funny)

pyrrhonist (701154) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819157)

Now we'll really be ready when the dead rise from the grave.

Oh crap... (-1, Troll)

SB5 (165464) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819159)

Oh crap and I thought the Terri Schiavo was dead and buried already!

But... (2, Funny)

timothv (730957) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819166)

Can these brains do floating point operations?

Say Goodbye... (2, Interesting)

Lord Pillage (815466) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819195)

...to my acid flashbacks!!! Bye bye holes in my brain. Soon I'll be able to fly my jet again.

Re:Say Goodbye... (1)

Mprx (82435) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822326)

Who modded this "interesting"? LSD does not cause any physical brain damage at all, this was obviously meant to be a joke.

Re:Say Goodbye... (1)

PingPongBoy (303994) | more than 9 years ago | (#12833729)

holes

Beef consumption without fear!

How can this be used? (4, Interesting)

jrivar59 (146428) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819290)

The first application that leaps to mind is that regenerated cells could be used to replace damanged or aged cells somehow, but is that really possible?

Other types of tissue have been reproduced before, but I've never heard of it being applied such a way. For instance, if you suffer liver failure, your still dependent on an organ doner..

Or are are there already some types of organ regeneration procedures already in practice? I would guess that the brain would be one of the most difficut types of tissue to do things like this.

Re:How can this be used? (3, Informative)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819558)

I don't really study neuroanatomy, but most patients with (hopefully repairable) brain damage aren't in need of an entire brain, they're in need of cells that produce specific chemicals. Parkinsons, for instance, is caused by a lack of Dopaminergic Neurons in a small portion towards the back of the brain; the ability to transplant new, fresh neurons may allieviate the symptoms.

A bit of an unfair comparison (because we can easily administer a drug and the injury is not nearly so severe) would be implanting cells that produce Lactase Enzyme for digesting dairy products in people who are lactose intolerant. It's not that the person needs a new stomach, they need a specific chemical which their brain cells are unable to make and we are unable to easily perscribe (dopamine precursors have lots of associated symptoms of their own).

Re:How can this be used? (1)

dannyitc (892023) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822346)

I agree with this. Most patients with degenerative brain disorders (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, PSP, etc.) aren't in need of unspecified neurons or brain matter, but specific neurons. The real breakthrough will be if they can get neurons to differentiate using known developmental cues and signals in the lab, since (I'm pretty sure) after initial development, there's little to no capacity for the mature brain tissue to signal differentiation of adjacent tissue. Dosage would be a huge issue, as well. Placing too many neurotransmitter-releasing neurons into someone's brain would likely be just as harmful as the patient's previous condition, and doing a stepwise implementation of additional neurons would require far too many surgeries to be feasible.

Re:How can this be used? (1)

jhawk1729 (892722) | more than 9 years ago | (#12836263)

It's unfortunately much more complicated then just replacing the missing or damaged cells with new healthy cells. The neurons are useless unless they have synapses with the correct neurons both for input and output. One could treat neurons to make them more likely to make synapses and stimulate synaptic formation, but the cells would have to find and make new connections before they could possibly be actual replacements. How neurons are able to make and maintain these connections with the right cells is mostly unknown, so this is still far from a comprehensive treatment. This is especially true in older people, plasticity is generally higher and more universal in younger animals. Plasticity is present in older animals but it's generally very localized (for example the olfactory system has massive neuronal turnover throughout one's life).

replacing neurons and othe brain cells (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 9 years ago | (#12826895)

The first application that leaps to mind is that regenerated cells could be used to replace damanged or aged cells somehow, but is that really possible?

Nope, neurons and glial cells can't be readily replaced. As shown by this webpage, the nervous system [maricopa.edu] . Each neuron may have dozens synaptic connections via dendrites and axons to other neurons and humans have 100 billion neurons in thier brains. What happens is that each meuron sends out a number of dendrites that then can connect to a number of axons of other neurons. A new neuron may be able to "replace" another neuron but then it will have to make synaptic connections on it's own. These connections aren't exactly hardwired. Then as these connections are made new "learning" is required by the brain.

I'm in no way knowledgable about the whole thing, everything that's involved, but because I suffer from a TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury [biausa.org] , the field is of interest to me.

Falcon

Who cares, yet? (1)

mugwumpus (849177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12826925)

Usefulness is useful, but pure science is fascinating, and the research potential here astonishes me.

One of my all-time favorite reads was Complexity [amazon.com] , couched as the story of the Sante Fe Institute [santafe.edu] and its brilliant, eccentric, tortured visionaries. Each an expert in their academic (in the sense of "strict observance of conventional rules" as well as "pertaining to academia") field, including economics, biology and computer science, they pursued the interdisciplinary "science of complexity" [google.com] .

The universe is full of complex systems, which are not comprehensible except as the aggregate of the interactions between autonomous agents: an economy consists of the transactions between buyers and sellers; the slime mold, depending on temperature and humidity, becomes a slowly-moving glob of brown goop, or simply vanishes as the individual cells go their own way; computers have not yet formed their own scientific community, but, we suppose, they're working on it.

Brains, it would seem, are complex systems; there is no "chief brain cell," they form spontaneously based on interactions between autonomous brain cells. I want to know more about the "api" of brain cells, and this article would seem to suggest the opening of a rather large door.

what sort of I/O would it be using? (4, Interesting)

St. Arbirix (218306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819353)

Seriously, if they're making "virtually unlimited quantities" they should at least shove a bunch together and wire up some sort of interface. It'd be interesting to see if it'll learn how to interact with whatever inputs it's given and maybe learn to respond.

We could then start teaching it stuff. Much fun.

Already done (2, Interesting)

tod_miller (792541) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821623)

With rat brain cells, in a suspesion, with lots of tiny wires on a core placed into them, they found that patterns emerged.

But our brains have built in abilities, for instance, we do not learn to smell or process visual cues, or move our muscles.

What would be cool? The ability to interface a controlled part of the brain (like, learn something while thinking about the beatles) to allow us to control which part of the brain stores some info, and have this as a removable, tranferrable core, and then see if we insert into into someone else, can they access their own interface (by perhaps, thinking about lemons) which would trigger these new associations.

It would give a while new meaning to getting someone to do your homework, they could also study for you for the exam, or lend you their notes literally.

Or actors could shag fit celebrities, and then copy their thoughts, and you rent them, and have memories of the event.

Coolies. Weird.

Re:Already done (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821792)

But our brains have built in abilities, for instance, we do not learn to smell or process visual cues, or move our muscles.

Um, yeah, you do. You know all that random flailing that small babies do? Playing with their fingers? All that is to learn which nerves are hooked up to what. The major motor nerves are essentially wired up randomly, and the brain learns the mappings at 'run time'.

There are very few 'compile time' motor nerve mappings in humans, and most of these are handled in the brain stem --- true reflexes. I believe suckling behaviour is one of these.

Re:Already done (1)

tod_miller (792541) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821910)

Well done, I said move muscules not walking.

How can they flail around if they haven't already learned to move their muscles?

You know, even flailing and moving arms with neural circuitry cannot just exist, it has to be programmed and designed, pre built.

You were Thinking moving a biological arm in a flailing motion (yet controlled, they can stop and start) is LESS complex than learning to walk on them, at a neural processing level?

Yes walking patterns get placed into 'muscle' memory, but the ability to move muscles is built in. Same as, erm, a heart beating? "Well Mr Jones, he is a little slow to learn, most children learn to beat their hearts by 11 months, but don't worry, keep up the heart massage, and he might live."

Stop thinking that being narrow minded and not seeing the whole puzzle makes you more intelligent.

Re:Already done (1)

tantrum (261762) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822138)

moving muscles are controlled with your mind (most of them anyways), your heart is controlled by the brain stem

Take this to heart (1)

Engineer-Poet (795260) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822943)

The heart receives signals from the brain stem (as well as chemical signals like adrenaline), but it's controlled by its own pacemaker node and will tick along just fine even if the nerve from the brain stem is disrupted.

Re:Already done (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 9 years ago | (#12826300)

You were Thinking moving a biological arm in a flailing motion (yet controlled, they can stop and start) is LESS complex than learning to walk on them, at a neural processing level?

Hell, yeah. You fire nerves at random. After a while your brain learns particular patterns, both in which combinations of nerves make particular motions and also which nerves get fired in response to tell you what's happened --- major motor nerves are big, complex things, and have lots of feedback systems. Just moving your arm requires moving a number of muscles just the right amount, all in synchronisation.

Getting all this in sync is called coordination. It's nearly all learnt behaviour, and some of it has to be done consciously.

Same as, erm, a heart beating?

Heart muscle is an entirely different material, and is largely autonomous --- a heart doesn't need to be connected to the brain to beat. You can grow heart muscle in petri dishes, and once it reaches a certain level of development it starts to move of its own accord.

Stop thinking that being narrow minded and not seeing the whole puzzle makes you more intelligent.

Oh, ad hominem attacks, is it? Well, if we're descending to that level, stop thinking that being patronising and ungrammatical makes you know everything.

Re:Already done (1)

tod_miller (792541) | more than 9 years ago | (#12836603)

If you look at the semantics of what I said, I said the brain knows how to move muscles, no coordinated movement, and, for some reason, which I forget, that point of distinction was important.

I forgot what this thread was about now, but the very fact that you can randomly and uncoordinatedly move your muscles means the brain knows how to move muscles. (ok just nerve impules, but you are wired up, albeit randomly, or not randomly, but we don't know what does what yet)

Re:Already done (1)

poolmeister (872753) | more than 9 years ago | (#12830875)

This discussion is getting stupid...

The ability to move your muscles isn't 'pre-built', it's something you start learning at the foetal stage of development.

The only autonomous movement in your body is your heart & bowels which are both comprised of unique electromotive cells. They're not controlled by the brain/nervous system at all.

'Muscle memory'.. now THAT'S just silly!

Re:Already done (1)

tod_miller (792541) | more than 9 years ago | (#12836650)

ability to make the chemical-physical transition in your muscle cells to make contraction and relaxation must be built in, because it is a mechanism.

logically thats like saying you can learn to see. (not interpret the world necessarily, or identify faces, but receieve optical impulse necessary to allow you to do all that learning)

Get the distinction yet?

Muscle memory? silly? wha? No, it is real, just like 2+2=4 is automatic, some movements become automatic by the same neutral pathway ingraining. Just ask Tiger Woods. Or someone who can bunny hope that building in action quake 2 city level.

Re:Already done (1)

poolmeister (872753) | more than 9 years ago | (#12839811)

OK, granted that the ability to convert a neural chemical signal to a nervous electrical impulse nerve is a "built-in" process.
What I was implying was that the ablility to intentionally use that process to trigger a reaction in a specific muscle or part or our body is something we learn to control from as early as the foetal stage of development.

So yeah, I get the distiction.

At last! (5, Funny)

Bodhidharma (22913) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819449)

Finally, the end of the Republican party is in sight.

Re:At last! (1)

Bodhidharma (22913) | more than 9 years ago | (#12820588)

I thought it needed the "obvious" tag.

Re:At last! (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821179)

I'm not so sure about that.
-oo + +oo = 0
You see, while they'll get infinitly smarter, they'll be just as empty headed as before.

Re:At last! (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822635)

Or maybe Democrats will learn what is and is not sex? Kind cuts both ways.

Re:At last! (1)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 9 years ago | (#12823124)

Or maybe Democrats will learn what is and is not sex? Or more importantly, DO NOT keep semen stained mementos. Doesn't Lewinsky wash her frigging clothes? Was she gonna have the dress framed? WTF? As for what is and isn't sex - lots of people disagree over that kind of thing. [kentucky.com]

I disagree. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12822704)

I don't think producing brains in labs will eliminate the need for brains in politcs, so Republicans will still be useful.

Unlimited quantities... (1)

UnapprovedThought (814205) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819470)

Someone will probably try to create a meter-wide brain now, and then enslave it to produce slightly better marketing memes. That is, until it escapes from its jar and takes over the world.

Oblig. Futurama, there's a reference in everything (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 9 years ago | (#12820070)

A series of giant interstellar brains deliver facts on placards to the Infosphere.

Infosphere:
Beavers mate for life.
11 > 4.
For quality carpets, visit Kaplan's Carpet Warehouse!!

Re:Unlimited quantities... (1)

mst (30456) | more than 9 years ago | (#12824729)

Here I am, brain the size of a planet...

Here I am, brain the size of a planet... (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 9 years ago | (#12827135)

Marvin, is that you?

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Falcon

Geez... (0, Offtopic)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819484)

Seriously people, have you noticed the layout of that news site? The text barely occupies 1/4 of the screen's width? Or am I the only one who's disgusted ?

Re:Geez... (2, Informative)

flawedgeek (833708) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819519)

Just use the link for the "printer-friendly page". It's eye-friendly as well.

Re:Geez... (1)

poningru (831416) | more than 9 years ago | (#12820964)

or use adblocker and block out those things as well

Just think of the experiments (4, Interesting)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819487)

Within the limitation that some mechanism for simulating the blood/brain barrier will have to be devised, this should lead to a new generation of drug screens. Now you can test the effect of new drugs at physiological concentrations on real brain cells. This potentially means no more guess-work based on rat models, and less endangering of real patients during the phase three trials.

Of course, people with more vision than I have will undoubtedly be using this as a way of testing their Borg prototypes, but that's progress of a sort as well. Seriously enough, this will allow you to do the necessary tests to make sure that human cells interface correctly with cybernetic implants, thereby speeding development of bionic eyes, neuro-muscular interfaces, etc.

So, how long until, "we can remember it for you wholesale", or "johnny mnemonic"?

We are already there (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819791)

We Can Remember it for you Wholesale was released as Total Recall [imdb.com] in 1990, and Johnny Mnemonic [imdb.com] came out in 1995.

I know this is slashdot and all, but really, you should get out more.

Re:We are already there (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 9 years ago | (#12820089)

I know this is slashdot and all, but really, you should get out more.

Maybe I should get out more myself but I'll bite - what good (i.e. "Paycheck" doesn't count) movies have come out since then with a similar theme...?

Re:We are already there (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 9 years ago | (#12820180)

The matrix? Also soon, A Scanner Darkly [imdb.com] is coming out. Obviously I don't know if it will be any good. It will be rotoscoped with the same software that Bob Sabiston created and was used in Waking Life [imdb.com] , which was somewhat in the same vein, but not really a cohesive story.

Re:We are already there (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 9 years ago | (#12823347)

Depressingly, I saw one of them, and then decided not to let a bad movie adaptation ruin another short story for me.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the plug-in supplementary memory from the second, although the idea of vacation memories without the hassle of flying is appealing.

mmmhhhh (1)

schnits0r (633893) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819581)

So there is hope for my coworkers after all!

Re:mmmhhhh (1)

Engineer-Poet (795260) | more than 9 years ago | (#12823028)

(Your co-workers have been saying that about you for three years now...)

It puts a whole new meaning.. (1)

Meph_the_Balrog (796101) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819617)

to the phrase "artificial intelligence"

Treat disease? Peh! (3, Interesting)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 9 years ago | (#12819962)

Treating disease? We should be using these new brain cells to augment existing brilliance!

It seems almost like a waste to repair an alzheimers damaged brain which will be dead in 10 years anyway when you could, instead, augment, say... mine, and I've got a good 60 or 70 years to go.

Selfish old people, hmph.

Re:Treat disease? Peh! (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821116)

Common, you're on slashdot, that on its own means at least 55% of your brain has nothing to do already.

But... (2, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 9 years ago | (#12820232)


Can they grow Pinky cells yet?

Re:But... (1)

QMO (836285) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822882)

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Re:But... (1)

azav (469988) | more than 9 years ago | (#12825328)

NAARF!

poit.

Why, yes Brain, I AM pondering what you're pondering!

Re:But... (1)

aaqubed (851899) | more than 9 years ago | (#12829316)

I think so, Brain...

...but if Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why does he keep doing it?

...but shouldn't the Batboy be wearing a cape?

...but balancing a family and a career...oh, it's just all too much for me.

...but this time you wear the tutu.

...but, 'Snowball for Windows'?

I worry... (3, Insightful)

dalutong (260603) | more than 9 years ago | (#12820544)

This discoveries are pretty fantastic, but they worry me.

Right now the technology doesn't exist to artificially increase yours or your baby's intelligence using artificially generated brain cells. But everytime I see an article like this, I realize that by the time I die there will be some serious questions people will be making like, "is it okay to up my intelligence by 10 points?"

I don't want to have to make those kinds of decisions, or to live in a world where it will be possible. because once a handful of people start doing things like that the rest of us have a lot of pressure to do the same. if 2 percent of people start doing that it makes the rest of us a lot less competative.

these kinds of things already happen, they're just not physiological. there started to be people working crazy overtime, and their peers had no choice but to do the same in order to compete.

but as much as i don't like sacrificing time at home, the question of "how much overtime do i work" is really tiny compared to "how much do i f*ck with my kids brain?"

just not a question i want to have to ask...

Re:I worry... (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821160)

Perhaps the real question will be "Should I be allowed to better any physical characteristic of my unborn child?". I doubt there would be any concern about correct real genetic defects which lead to serious disabillities. However what about genetic defect that lead to brains like those of Einstein? Or would Mozard have been able to write better or worse music if he's deafness would have been prevented before he was even born? Would Mozard have been willing to sacrifice his succes for the ability to hear?
On the other side: should a scientist be allowed to increase the potential of his brain if that would better his work? Could an atlete use such means to better his abilities?
Key is that such thing will be available, probably even within our lifetimes, if we like it or not. And probably this will go the same way as abortion and plastic surgery. If the US/Europe bans it, those who want it (and can affort it) will go to South-America/Former USSR states.
There is a particular movie that shows where this could lead, I'll post its title after I got my memory upgrade.

Mozard? (1)

QMO (836285) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822818)

I'm thinking that you meant, W. A. Mozart, but he wan't deaf.
Then I think, maybe you mean L. van Beethoven, but his deafness was late onset, not a birth defect, plus it's arguable (because it's subjective) that his very best music came after his hearing loss.

So, the question remains, Mozard????

Re:Mozard? (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822935)

ok, I think I proved I'm not in classical music. I did indeed meant Beethoven.
Point is that his genetic defect that caused his hearing loss at later age might as well have some effect on how he percieved sound throughout his life.

Re:Mozard? (1)

QMO (836285) | more than 9 years ago | (#12823386)

I think that you have a valid point. Did his "pre-deafness" change help make his music what it is?

My other question then is perhaps only tangentially related.
Did Beethoven's deafness have it roots in genetic defect?
There are many other reasons for deafness. Disease, infection, loud noises, brain injury, sharp stick in the ear, etc. I had a roommate that was deaf from birth, but his deafness came from birth trauma, not genetic defect (he was also blind in one eye).

Why is your worry so selective? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12825645)

However what about genetic defect that lead to brains like those of Einstein?

If you're really worried about that sort of thing, I've got bad news for you. The possibility still exists that we're losing Einstein level geniuses forever, today. Einstein wouldn't have done any science if he wasn't given an education in physics. And it's hard to discover relativity if you're dying in a mud hut somewhere.

On average, fifteen thousand children died yesterday of starvation and malnutrition: we don't know if any of them were Einstein level material. It's not likely, but then, Einstein was something of a rarity to begin with. As an international society, we don't care about this concern; at least, not enough to do anything about it.

So, if the risk of losing an Einstein today doesn't deter us, why should it do so in the future, especially when there are other potential benefits to be reaped? Right or wrong, I don't see this concern as being anything that would slow anyone down.
--
AC

Gattaca (1)

wyoung76 (764124) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821303)

This is pretty much the world that is portrayed in the movie Gattaca.

Those that are genetically "perfect" are given extra benefits, and those that are not are destined to live lives of unimportance, working menial jobs.

Not enough people think beyond themselves these days, and think of the wider implications of what advances can have on society as a whole.

Why the children? (2, Insightful)

BlueHands (142945) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821460)

Why assume that children will be the first for a brain boost?

People are going to augment themselves first and fastest. Long before people are mucking around with their children's brains (or genes for that matter), people will be trying to uplift themselves. Kids are gonna be BEGGING to be upgraded. Ask yourself how many people don't want to be smarter.

As for worrying about it, why? Would you every say "I worry about Google but all the information of the world at my finger tips." The are many many dangerous things on the Internet, do you worry about them? There are many dangerous things in books, do you worry about them?

Re:Why the children? (1)

dalutong (260603) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821593)

I worry about having to make the decision because I don't want to have to upgrade myself or my kids so they can stay competative.

Read the other responses to my original post. One had a good point about Einstein and Mozart.

And intelligence is overrated. It might help your work, but it doesn't necessarily add to the value of your life.

I have the same opinions about ritalin -- the world (or at least america) has demanded people (including young kids) be able to concentrate for 10 hours straight so people pop these pills.

But being able to concentrate and drone on for 10 hours sucks and doesn't add anything to your life.

Being able to modify behavior, strength, brain capacity, etc just makes us more and more compelled to be the same as everyone else, even when this magical person we're all trying to be doesn't exist, and everyone who follows in his footsteps leads an empty life.

Re:Why the children? (1)

Sylver Dragon (445237) | more than 9 years ago | (#12825886)

You shouldn't even waste time contemplating it, kids should be "upgraded". Consider for a moment, if your children were to end up being Einsteins because of some random genetic variance, would you complain or worry about it? Probably not, so why is it so bad when the randomness is taken out of it?
One of the important parts of being a parent is providing your child with every possible advantage to succeed; and, with any luck, to do better than you did yourself. Genetic manipulation is a good way to go about it. Granted, it's probably smart to wait a bit and see what the side effects will be, but in the end, the human race is going to start the process of evolving again, but in a more controlled fashion.
I would argue that, since the creation of modern medicine, the evolution of our species has stopped. With the exception of very bad disorders, those with genetic defects can often survive long enough to reproduce. For example, childhood diabietes used to be incredibly fatal. A child born with it in the 1600's was dead, quick. Now, a child with it has a chance of making it to adulthood, and passing on that defect. At the risk of sounding like Dr. Mengele, modern medicine is allowing normally fatal genetic defects to be introduced and propagated in our species. Our species is no longer evolving to rid itself of such disorders.
Now, I'm not saying that saving lives is bad. I would rather we did everything we could to save lives than to accept the outcome as "God's Will". But the fact remains that, in doing so, we are stopping what is normally the driving process of evolution. Genetic manipulation will be the process by which we can get back on the evolutionary track, and this time, we get to drive.
The first, and obvious, use will be to eradicate genetic diseases. Down's syndrome, color blindness, etc. And, since we're at it, why not sort out some of the other annoyances of life? Is inherited baldness of any use? Is there any need for people to have myopia or an astigmatism? Better metabolic rate, incresed muscle density, etc. These ate things which will improve the quality of life for a person, what is wrong with doing it?
I think it's very short sighted to assume that modifying people will make everyone too much alike. Parents will have a different idea of what constitutes a "perfect" child. Not to mention that much of the genetic code will still come from the parents. Also, no matter what the genes, the enviroment that a child is raised in, the beliefs imparted to them by their parents, and its experiences will shape that child in ways different from anyone else. Genetic manipulation is not going to cause the loss of individuality, it's simply going to raise the bar on what an "average" individual is, just as the evolution of a larger brain changed us from chimps to reasoning humans.

Re:Why the children? (1)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 9 years ago | (#12823020)

Historically, people have rebelled against the strictures that were imposed upon them. Nations wanted people to control their sex lives, their violence, etc. And as much benefit as that control might give, both to individuals and nations, it would also dramatically increase the power of those who already weild power. It could fundamentally change human nature, and society with it. The grandparent was right to want to proceed with caution.

Economic necessity is a powerful incentive for people to change their behavior. As people gain the ability to act on that impulse, we're going to see society changing, perhaps recklessly and with little foresight.

Kids are gonna be BEGGING to be upgraded.

Speaking as someone whose parents put him on Ritalin, and who had a few tearful arguments before they agreed he should stop taking the shit, I wonder if that's the way the decision will play out.

There's a difference in increasing the information you can access and changing yourself.

Re:I worry... (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822955)

If a given country (say, the US) makes intelligence enhancing treatments illegal for moral reasons, then it will get a big heaping dose of reality when it loses out to another country that has been modifying its people left and right. Once that technology is available (and we're nowhere near that point with the brain), anyone who does not adopt it will be at a disadvantage. It becomes something like a prisoner's dilemma; each nation would have to trust each other nation to not allow enhancement of their citizens, while each nation would gain a huge advantage over the others if they _did_.

Not good. But sooner or later we _will_ have to deal with this problem.

Re:I worry... (1)

CFTM (513264) | more than 9 years ago | (#12826338)

It's called a race to the bottom, same thing happened in the cold war...same thing happens in our consumer society ... two Canadian Philosophers wrote a book on it called Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture became Consumer Culture [amazon.com] Very interesting read...

Re:I worry... (1)

Grotus (137676) | more than 9 years ago | (#12824495)

Adding extra brain cells won't make you (or your kids) smarter. In fact, it might make them less intelligent. It is somewhat common for people with macrocephaly to have some degree of mental retardation.

"how much do i f*ck with my kids brain?" (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 9 years ago | (#12827415)

That's a problem I see with eugenics, how much expectation will a parent put on their children. Then again those expectations don't exist just with eugenics, today more and more parents are using their children to "fulfill" their own hopes, especially in sports. Parents are getting so they push their children to be the best in whatever sport they are interested in, be it soccer (soccer moms anyone?), gymnastics, football, or what have you. These parents aren't content to let their children enjoy play and be children. I don't mind parents encouraging children to do the best they can but the parents need to let them have fun doing so.

Falcon

What do they feel (2, Interesting)

readin (838620) | more than 9 years ago | (#12820640)

Am I the only one wondering how many of these brain cells will be needed to have a brain with feelings? Am I the only one concerned about the moral implications of these experiments? If embryos aren't human because they don't have a brain and can't have human emotions, then what do we say about something that consists of only a human brain and is capable of emotion, but has has no way of expressing to us what those emotions are?

Re:What do they feel (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821199)

I don't think we're that far. If you've ever seen how complex the human brain is, I think you can say we're still a long way from a real thinking mind. The human brain is a very complex system, we've just been able to build the building blocks of it. We're more likely to build an insect-like brain first (is it wrong to kill an insect?) and more complicated brain structures later, however something as complex of the human mind will be something for the far future.

Re:What do they feel (1)

venicebeach (702856) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821361)

Well, for now, the easiest way to create a new brain is to have sex. Of course that responsibilty hasn't been used with much discretion...

But seriously, this is not really anywhere close to a pressing concern at this point. A human brain contains about 100 billion neurons, each with about 2000 connections to other neurons. We're not exactly on the verge of producing one in a lab. And, even if we did, there is reason to believe that separated from an physical body, deprived of the normal developmental processes, etc. that its behavior still would not resemble consciousness...For example, your question about emotion. What is emotion? Well a lot of it has to do with interpretation of the physiological state of the body - am I aroused, excited - ready to act? When you start to think about it, what could this mean for the lab brain in a vat? Not only does it not have adrenaline coursing through its circulatory system (it doesnt have one) it also does not have a motor system to act with. Nor does it have a face to express this emotion to its peers (it doesn't have those either).

In other words, you can't necessary build one aspect of consciousness apart from the rest, and you can't neccesarily build a conscious brain without building an entire body, and if you're going to do that your best bet for the forseeable future is going to be to find a mate.

Re:What do they feel (1)

readin (838620) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822952)

A big part of the problem is that we don't really understand what emotion and consciousness are. We highly suspect that more than one brain cell is required, but do we really know for sure? Do we have any clue as to where the change from no-emotions and unconscious to counscious with emotions occurs?
Someone said that "And, even if we did, there is reason to believe that separated from an physical body, deprived of the normal developmental processes, etc. that its behavior still would not resemble consciousness". Are we sure the brain wouldn't have consciousness, or would it simply be mentally ill and full of agony? We just don't know.
Until we have a better idea of how much of a brain is required to make something we would think of as having human emotion or consciousness, we should leave the testing to animals brains, or at the very least put a very low upper limit on now many human brain cells can be grown together.

coming soon to the lab in your town (1)

Muhammar (659468) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821302)

Dr. Schroeder: "Did you kill them all?"
Igor: "I guess... They started auto-lysing last night, don't know why. Yeah, the new batch's gonna be ready on Thursday. All pretty happy so far, pink and shiny - have a look into my jars."

my first thought... (2, Funny)

NoSuchGuy (308510) | more than 9 years ago | (#12821971)

send these cells to:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Maybe there is hope?

Mmmm.. beer.. (0, Redundant)

bjb (3050) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822035)

Now we just need a way to replace all the brain cells I killed with beer over the years.

Can I just pour the petri dish into my ear?

Guess That means (1)

KingBahamut (615285) | more than 9 years ago | (#12822677)

that my Monthly "attitiude" adjustment can go to a quad weekly attitude adjustment with little fear of reprocushion.

Course, could I really afford it, probably not.

Re:Guess That means (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12824007)

"reprocushion"???? What kind of cushion is that? The one you'll need to survive the ass-kicking I'm gonna give you for spelling like a two year old?

So, maybe now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12826295)

...Chris Reeve can finally... oh wait. Never mind.

neurogenesis and stem cells (2, Interesting)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 9 years ago | (#12826374)

Good, as a TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury, survivor if they need human guinea pigs then I volunteer.

Falcon

OH my god look at that guys head! (1)

beautiful leper (892064) | more than 9 years ago | (#12827117)

I wonder if I could have my skull custom made for room to grow more brain matter. Probobly improbable?

Re:OH my god look at that guys head! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12836699)

you could section off a piece of plexiglass skull with blue neon lights on the inside, too. w00t

I wonder if they run.... (2, Funny)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 9 years ago | (#12828263)

I wonder if we could make them run Linux?
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>