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Nanotech and the Blind

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the waiting-for-my-HUD dept.

138

tomsastroblog writes "In a BBC report scientists injected blind hamsters with a solution containing nanoparticles. The result? Nerves re-grew and sight returned. The researchers injected the blind hamsters with a solution of synthetically made peptides; within 24 hours the brain started to heal itself. The peptides were later broken down by the body into a harmless substance and was excreted three to four weeks later. From the article: 'We are looking at this as a step process. If this can be used while operating on humans to mitigate damage during neurosurgery, that would be the first step,'"

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eat more nigger turds! (0, Troll)

Asshat_Nazi (946431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916074)

yum, yum, yum, nigger turds! Tasty little treats straight from the choco-hole!

iPod NanoBots (4, Interesting)

ExE122 (954104) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916079)

After injecting the hamsters with a solution containing nanoparticles, the nerves re-grew and sight returned

This is pretty advanced. So why did Jordy have to wear that stupid visor?

In order to try to restore quality of life to those individuals you can try to reconnect some disconnected parts to try to give some functionality

I guess John Bobbit could've used this as well



On a serious note though, this seems really amazing. It's basically neuro-knitting a damaged brain back in place.

I wonder if this can somehow treat brain defects due to developmental problems. Disorders such as Schitzophrenia [schizophrenia.com] can be treated with a frontol lobotomy (although this is only done in extreme circumstances) where they disconnect nerves the front part of the brain. I wonder if they can use this technology to reconnect it in a way that will act as a treatment (sort of "rewiring").

They will no doubt look to see if it can heal the lesions from myelin deteriation caused by diseases like Multiple Sclerosis [nmss.org] . I think the fact that brain tissue regenerated in adult hamsters that weren't supposed to grow new brain tissue gives some promise to that. I know that Parkinson's disease also affects the nervous system, but I believe its caused by some kind of cellular failure. Nevertheless, this looks like some very promising research!

--
"Man Bits Dog
Then Bites Self"

Re:iPod NanoBots (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916153)

Geordi La Forge.

Re:iPod NanoBots (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916197)

Parent La Geek

Re:iPod NanoBots (5, Informative)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916326)

I think the fact that brain tissue regenerated in adult hamsters that weren't supposed to grow new brain tissue gives some promise to that.

Actually, this is an old fallacy. Research over the past decade has indicated that adult brains do actually continue to grow [wikipedia.org] .

Re:iPod NanoBots (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916368)

So why did Jordy have to wear that stupid visor?

For the same reason the NCC-1701 had clocks made out of spinning cylinders.

KFG

Re:iPod NanoBots (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916374)

After injecting the hamsters with a solution containing nanoparticles, the nerves re-grew and sight returned
This is pretty advanced. So why did Jordy have to wear that stupid visor?

IIRC it was because something unique about him prevented the surgery from working. They mentioned that in one show.
The real question is why was the air filter he wore so big? From other parts of the show we already saw smaller cameras,power sources and processing units. So a device could of been able to be made that would fit into a more conventional glasses which were being used by other characters in the show.

Re:iPod NanoBots (4, Funny)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916585)

The real question is why was the air filter he wore so big?

The prop guys probably had a bet going to see if that guy from Reading Rainbow would wear a banana clip on his face.

Re:iPod NanoBots (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917042)

Sort of like the fact that most of Bones' tools in the Original Star Trek were made from salt and pepper shakers. Basically for the first episode the prop people had forgotten to make anything for his medical tools, and at the last minute just handed him a salt shaker. After that they went out searching for more and more elaborate salt shakers as a joke.

Salt Shaker Instruments (1)

SeanDuggan (732224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917259)

Sort of like the fact that most of Bones' tools in the Original Star Trek were made from salt and pepper shakers. Basically for the first episode the prop people had forgotten to make anything for his medical tools, and at the last minute just handed him a salt shaker. After that they went out searching for more and more elaborate salt shakers as a joke.
I hate to parade my Star Trek geek credentials, but in Star Trek Memories by Shatner, it's stated that the salt shakers came in during the episode with the salt vampire. Basically, the props guy was told to go out and find "futuristic-looking salt shakers." When he brought them back, they realized that the shakers didn't look enough like salt shakers for viewer recognition, so they turned them into medical instruments. *shrug* Then again, probably as many stories as there are cast and crew...

Re:iPod NanoBots (1)

IAmTheDave (746256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916388)

This is pretty advanced. So why did Jordy have to wear that stupid visor?

And why, oh why, was he able to see xrays, false color, extended light spectrums, heat and infared sensing, etc., but was unable to see a standard, color picture??

That always drove me nuts... If you can project a picture in to the dood's brain, can't it be, say, ANY picture?

Re:iPod NanoBots (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916461)

Better yet, how was he able to see neutrinos?

BTW to grandparent it's spelled Geordi. As if you care.

Re:iPod NanoBots (2, Interesting)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916562)

I'm going to geek out here and post my own personal theory...

Geordi was, I think, blind from birth. This wasn't fixed early on, and so his visual cortex therefore never developed to process input. Even if they had fixed his eyes, he still would not have been able to "see" images like the rest of us (this really happens). His air filter (okay, fine, VISOR) was designed to interface with the central sensory processing center of his brain (I forget what this region is called), providing additional input which his brain -could- learn to use. The representation of GeordiVision (TM) on the show was just a way of showing his perception in a way that we sighted people could understand. What Geordi actually experienced was not "sight" as we know it, but an awareness of his surrounding perhaps similar to what bats experience through their sonar.

Mind you, this theory is shot to hell by the final episode of TNG, where he has to remove his VISOR because his "visual cortex is falling out of alignment" or something. But other than that it seems pretty solid to me.

Re:iPod NanoBots (1)

Dimensio (311070) | more than 8 years ago | (#14918198)

Mind you, this theory is shot to hell by the final episode of TNG, where he has to remove his VISOR because his "visual cortex is falling out of alignment" or something.

I believe that you are referring to Star Trek: Insurrection where a regenerative field surrounding the planet featured in the movie causes Geordi's optic nerves to regenerate and restore his ability to see.

It should be noted, however, that Geordi was not wearing the VISOR at the time, and had switched to ocular implants directly on the eyes. Such ocular implants had been mentioned previously in the television series as early as season 2, however Geordi declined to use them as they resulted in 20% less visual acutiy as his VISOR. Presumably the technology in such implants improved to such a point to make them equal or superior to the VISOR by the time of Star Trek: First Contact.

Note that the events of Star Trek: Insurrection were apparently not permanent, as Geordi was wearing his ocular implants in Star Trek: Nemesis. This movie also suggests that Data's emotion chip was no longer in existence either, as the android never shows any sign of emotion during the movie.

Re:iPod NanoBots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916551)

"Disorders such as Schitzophrenia can be treated with a frontol lobotomy (although this is only done in extreme circumstances) where they disconnect nerves the front part of the brain. I wonder if they can use this technology to reconnect it in a way that will act as a treatment (sort of "rewiring")."

In all actuality, repeatedly punching a schizophrenic under the guise of therapy will also have as much basis in reality as the frontal lobotomy. As long as the patient as well as the doctors involved think there is some benefit, both sides will start treating the patient as being cured and the patient will benefit -- and benefit perceptibly.

Under the idea of a frontal labotomy, the patient also has far more disconnects with reality and thus more likely to not exhibit the symptoms of schizophrenia -- but it will still be there. The body is just coping with trying to find other ways to stay alive and thus seems cured.

Just trying to say, under no circumstances is this disease cured or even helped by a frontal labotomy.

At the same time, I forwarded this article to a friend with MS before I saw your response. We are both in medical based professions and I could see this being helpful for folks with her condition -- though she has to deal with persons physical aspects and would probably understand these implications far more than I would.

Re:iPod NanoBots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916780)

Ah, but can they make you use spell-check?

curing the yearning masses... (1)

JimBobJoe (2758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917170)

This is pretty advanced. So why did Jordy have to wear that stupid visor?

While scientists are undoubtedly doing their "working for humanity" thing I could see how such technology could be appiled to aging/reversing aging. (Which brings up the question why anybody would have wrinkles.)

My expectation is that quite a lot of this tech will be used for cosmetic applications (in addition to helping the blind see and that sorta thing.) If the optimal look for attracting the opposite sex serves as a guide, women of the future will look permanently 17, and men will look permanently 24.

Awesome (1)

shrike99 (100287) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916083)

From sombody who may need neurosurgery in the near future, I HOPE this works!

I'm not blind... (-1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916277)

The things are too small to see!

Re:Awesome (1)

Maxhrk (680390) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917900)

yeah i hope they get it to work.. so I can have my hearing restored.

Fantastic! (4, Insightful)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916090)

What a great technology this looks to be. However, I would hesitate to call it 'nanotechnology', since it does not appear in any way to be 'molecular manufacturing'. Indeed, while the article didn't specify the means of production, making peptides sounds like chemistry to me.

Re:Fantastic! (0)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916157)

Well how the **** else are they supposed to get publicity and funding if they just call it "chemistry"?

Re:Fantastic! (5, Funny)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916212)

Publicity? Claim they're using embryonic stem cells.

Funding? Claim they're eliminating the need to use embryonic stem cells.

Both? Claim it's due to the power of prayer, and everyone should send in five dollars.

Re:Fantastic! (1)

Matt Edd (884107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916215)

I see a lot of talks on physics and more and more I am seeing people use certain buzzwords (like nanoparticle or quantum dot) in their title even though it really has nothing to do with their talk.

Re:Fantastic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916357)

However, I would hesitate to call it 'nanotechnology', since it does not appear in any way to be 'molecular manufacturing'.

"Nanotechnology is any technology which exploits phenomena and structures that can only occur at the nanometer scale, which is the scale of several atoms and small molecules." Source [wikipedia.org]

Re:Fantastic! (-1, Offtopic)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916381)

And thus we see the problem with using Wikipedia as a source.

Re:Fantastic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916617)

More sources [google.com] . About half resemble the wikipedia definition.

Re:Fantastic! (2, Interesting)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916499)

That's a horrible definition. *All* chemical processes "exploit phenomena and structures that can only occur at the nanometer scale" because the processes happen at the molecular level! But I guess that's the point, isn't it? The broader the scope of "nanotechnology", the easier it is to get funded. The broader the definition of "terrorist", the easier it is to get support for your policies. The broader the definition of "technology", the easier it is to get people to buy the latest Microsoft bells and whistles.

Re:Fantastic! (1)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917013)


Nanotechnology is any technology which exploits phenomena and structures that can only occur at the nanometer scale, which is the scale of several atoms and small molecules.

Hmm. First off, the article you site is not consistent on this point, or with regards to the facts. It further states:

The term "nanotechnology" was defined by Tokyo Science University professor Norio Taniguchi in a 1974 paper (N. Taniguchi, "On the Basic Concept of 'Nano-Technology'," Proc. Intl. Conf. Prod. Eng. Tokyo, Part II, Japan Society of Precision Engineering, 1974.) as follows: "'Nano-technology' mainly consists of the processing of, separation, consolidation, and deformation of materials by one atom or one molecule." In the 1980s the basic idea of this definition was explored in much more depth by Dr. Eric Drexler, who promoted the technological significance of nano-scale phenomena and devices through speeches and the books Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology and Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation, (ISBN 0-471-57518-6), and so the term acquired its current sense.

What is interesting here is that:

  1. The person credited with coining the term was using the narrow, useful definition instead of the overly vague (to the point where it's useless) definition that you cite.
  2. It blames Drexler for the dilution, which is absurd. Anyone who's ever heard him speak could tell you his stand on the issue, and he is not in favor of the loose useage.
  3. The "current sense" referred to in the Wikipedia article may be current among hucksters and buzzword bingo players, but I have yet to meet anyone who seriously thinks about such things who doesn't distinguish between 1) chemistry, 2) eutactic nanotechnology, and 3) fine-scale materials engineering, all of which are covered under the umbrella you use.

This appears to be a case (after reading the Talk page for the article) where Wikipedia is caught in the middle of a debate between two or more camps that want to own a word--one group would like it as narrow as possible, so that they can use it to refer to a specific set of goals--none of which they have accomplished, and the other wants it broad so they can use it to garner funding for what they are doing now.

I'd have to say I'd side with the former, but it would be silly to claim that there wasn't a debate about the issue.

--MarkusQ

Re:Fantastic! (1)

Illserve (56215) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917087)

Jingoism at its worst.

I use nanotechnology with every breath I draw. Nanoparticles of oxygen enter my lungs, merge with my bloodstream in nanoreactions, and are nano-ported to the rest of the nanomachines that make up my body.

I really detest what journalism does to otherwise upstanding and level headed scientists

I think you mean jargon (1)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917256)

Jingoism means extreme patriotism, and generally implies support of war.

Jargon is specialized technical language or terms

Re:I think you mean jargon (1)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917346)

No, I don't think jargon is right either, since that would generally tend to indicate technical language used correctly. I think 'reporting' might get at the jist of what we have here: A buzzword being used incorrectly to create more sensationalism (unnecessarily, I might add).

Maybe we need a new word? (1)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917505)

Something that combines the sense of technical terms (a la jargon) and inappropriate use (as in malapropism)

I propose: malargon. It combines malapropism and jargon in a word that sounds suspiciously like malarky :o)

Re:Maybe we need a new word? (1)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917597)

I like it! The root 'mal' means bad, so combining that with 'jargon' makes perfect sense.

Re:Fantastic! (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917115)

Actually, sounds really close to "molecular manufacturing" to me. The peptides arrange themselves in a lattice around the severed nerve, and then the body's own repair mechanisms are able to fill in the gaps with a minimal of scarring, similar to a stitch or setting a broken bone. The nanotechnology part comes in the auto-assembling scaffold that you get just by injecting some chemicals.

Scientific progress is amazing (5, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916099)

Everytime I read one of these articles with a breakthrough in treating a deadly disease or severe disability, I have to say to myself that it's surely a wonderful time to be a mouse!

I hope these cures can be adapted for humans too.

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (4, Insightful)

macklin01 (760841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916156)

That's an interesting point, and I certainly think the parent is worth some mod points...

The common joke I hear when I talk to oncologists is "I can cure cancer in any mouse," and there's a point to that: plenty of treatments show a lot of promise in the mouse model, only to not pan out when tried in humans. The mouse model is a good starting point for research, but it's not always a great predictor of human response. -- Paul

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (5, Funny)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916324)

The mouse model is a good starting point for research, but it's not always a great predictor of human response.

My hypothesis is that the responses would be the same. To test this, go to Disneyland and kick Mickey Mouse in the crotch. Then, kick a comparably-sized human male in the crotch. Note the similarities in the response.

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (2, Funny)

utexaspunk (527541) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916635)

Then, kick a comparably-sized human male in the crotch.

I tried, but I couldn't find any human males with such gigantic heads...

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (1)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 8 years ago | (#14918021)

{ahem} Tim Russert.

Significant Differences (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916770)

I went ahead an tried your experimient.

First, I kicked my brother in the crotch. He doubled over, held his crotch and moaned. This was really just for form's sake cause I kick him there all the time and I already know what he does.

Then, I went to Disneyland... almost screwed up the experiment cause my travel agent booked Disney World instead but I caught the error in time. Anyway, I wandered around looking at Mickey until he was the same size as my brother. Funny that he can change his size, but I tell youe, he can. Anyway, I then proceded to kick him in the crotch. He yelped "Hey!", lifted off the ground about an inch, then reached back his big fist and clobbered me. His fist was really fatty or something, cause it didn't really hurt, but it was so large it knocked me off balance, and he got a good kick in before some kind of security guard ran up, shouting "Angela! Are you OK?". "Yeah," Mickey replied in a disconcerting falsetto. Into his walkie talkie thingy he said "She's all right, I am taking him in". I was then detained and dragged away.

All in all, I have to conclude your hypothesis that the responses would be the same is a crock of shit.

Re:Significant Differences (1)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917838)

Anyway, I then proceded to kick him in the crotch.

Sorry, I forgot to mention that scientific crotch-kicking usually requires a permit.

Mickey - patent not pending. (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 8 years ago | (#14918093)

kick Mickey Mouse in the crotch. Then, kick a comparably-sized human male in the crotch. Note the similarities in the response.

The problem is comparing this with laboratory mice. See, Mickey is Copyrighted while laboratory mice are Patented. Any comparison is doomed to fail under litigation.

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (1)

nutrock69 (446385) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916356)

- The mouse model is a good starting point for research, but it's not always a great predictor of human response.

The next question: Why are we starting with mice if we can't always use promising developments on humans? Wouldn't that be a huge waste of initial effort and expectations?

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (4, Interesting)

macklin01 (760841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916473)

The next question: Why are we starting with mice if we can't always use promising developments on humans? Wouldn't that be a huge waste of initial effort and expectations?

That's a great question. In part, it's a matter of ethics: you can't try out new ideas on human beings. Also, mice breed and grow quickly, which makes them faster to try new ideas on. But as stated, they aren't a great predictor. Another interesting thought (and one I don't have much insight on) is that perhaps some ideas that don't work out for mice might actually work in humans but are prematurely rejected. (i.e., if false positives are possible, shouldn't false negatives also be possible?)

This touches on my work, in part; I'm a mathematician working on increasingly detailed computer models of cancer to see if we can eventually get a better and faster model than the mouse model. It's also a lot easier to control the experimental conditions on a computer. :)

If you're interested in these kinds of questions, I'd recommend also checking out some BusinessWeek articles from about a year ago, where they talked about the state of cancer research. Their conclusion was that the biggest roadblock today is the mouse model. I don't remember the exact citation, but I could dig for it if you are interested. -- Paul

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14917052)

drug companies are increasingly outsourcing humand drug trials to indian villages, who are happy to take the money.

Happy Pi Day to you Mr. Mathematician (1)

Jtheletter (686279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917398)

mod: +1 thanks for trying to cure cancer!

Also, happy Pi Day to someone who no-doubt appreciates it. :)

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (1)

dusik (239139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916510)

Because there is enough correlation, and because as a society we don't care if mice die/suffer and it's not "evil"/"murder"/"inhumane", if you ask enough people.

I mean, isn't it natural for the average person to think, "better some mouse I don't even know than me"?

If you test something, and the mouse doesn't die, then we feel safer trying it on some terminally ill patient. Then finally on someone with a less serious condition.

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (1)

Blisshead (959178) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916320)

Agreed, it looks promising, but how far out is it in reality? We've all seen the timeline predictions fall again and again. Bless those furry little disease bags.

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916601)

Or alternatively we can adapt humans into mice.

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (4, Funny)

isotope23 (210590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917022)

Scene - cold, dark, run down storage room in a lab complex.

Mouseus :Eat the Red cheese and go back to your normal running wheel life.
                  Eat the Blue cheese and see just how deep the mousehole goes.

                    Welcome to the mouseterix....

Re:Scientific progress is amazing (1)

brix_zx2 (955395) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917783)

The actual purpose to this research is to befriend the rodents in urban areas and eventually the rats in New York. At that point science will be able to empower New York rats with a human thought process. This will ultimately lead to world domination by the US after a global nuclear holicaust kills everyone with the exceptions of: Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Ted Turner, and the New York rats (aka the ultimate army).

Nanotech for Other Ailments (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916108)

Slashdotters also want to know if nano-tech can cure hairy palms.

Re:Nanotech for Other Ailments (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916154)

A large percentage would also be interested in having it transferred to their heads.

On a more serious note, it seems like calling this a 'first step' in understating things a bit. This alone is of huge value in repairing nerve damage ... they almost make it sound trivial in some ways.

Re:Nanotech for Other Ailments (2, Insightful)

SpiritGod21 (884402) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916262)

There's a lot of work, testing, and development that has to go into this before it can be used on humans. We don't know yet if the "repairs" are permanent or if the hamster's sight will deterioriate within weeks/months. We also don't know the side effects this would have on a human. Bottom line: this is a first step. An impressive one, no doubt, but it's important to remember that this isn't a tried and true cure, found and ready for manufacturing and distribution. In that sense, this really is only a first half-step; they're not even ready to begin using it for neurosurgery yet.

But... (-1, Offtopic)

daranz (914716) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916120)

Did the hamsters grow glowing red lights on the sides of their heads, allowing them to see in ir, provided they wear a special, funny-looking device over their eyes?

paralysis (4, Interesting)

Douglas Simmons (628988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916124)

Glad to see the blind getting some vaperhope, but might this process have potential to repair spinal damage?

Re:paralysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916222)

pfft repairing spines is nothing. This will enable brain transplantation.

What about other applications? (-1, Troll)

Not_Wiggins (686627) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916207)

[sarcasm] I can't wait until the military figures out a way to distribute this in an aerosol for the purposes of DE-constructing nerves/brains/sight. [/sarcasm]

One can only hope that the amount of effort it takes to make these (even if for benevolent reasons) is expensive/difficult enough to keep all but the most altruistic applications out of the mix.

But then again, when did "expensive" and "altruistic" ever cross paths? 8/

Re:What about other applications? (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916495)

You're suggesting that it could be too expensive for the military to use it, but not too expensive to use for medical reasons? And you're from what planet again? :-)

Re:What about other applications? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917623)

When you're talking about 'being too expensive for military use', remember:
1. This would count as a chemical weapon
2. Explosives to physically cause damage are cheap
3. Guidance packages and such are just as expensive no matter what the payload - whether it be inert, explosive, or NBC.

Also, if the chemicals are expensive, you have to remember that manual application on patients would take alot less than the amount you'd have to spray to try to get a couple hundred people in a field or other uncontrolled area.

Re:Aerosol isn't all that great (2, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916696)

One can only hope that the amount of effort it takes to make these (even if for benevolent reasons) is expensive/difficult enough to keep all but the most altruistic applications out of the mix.

Hrm... Wouldn't it be easier to cultivate Anthrax or make Nerve Gas for military applications?

Well truth be told aerosol attacks are highly ineffective for military applications.

This is wonderful news for our grandchildren (2, Insightful)

waif69 (322360) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916208)

I am sure that it will take a few generations for this to make it to human medical proceedures, as long as funding is not pulled away. If Christopher Reeve was frozen he might have had a chance in 100 years, if they can bring a frozen person back then.

Finally (-1, Offtopic)

BitterAndDrunk (799378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916210)

Finally I can masturbate without fear again!
Time to buy more shaving cream and hand-safe razors.

I'm very very sorry for the joke.

COULD HAVE HEALED TERRI SCHIAVO (-1, Flamebait)

55555 Manbabies! (861806) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916220)

Too bad the demoncrats executed her. Find out more at http://www.terrisfight.org [terrisfight.org] and http://cultureoflife.on.nimp.org [nimp.org]

Wow! Was she ... (-1, Offtopic)

slobber (685169) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916283)

a blind hampster? No, really, tell me!

Chicks dig scars, but nerves don't (5, Informative)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916239)

This article is a little misleading, suggesting that we can start squirting these tiny peptides into peoples bodies and they'd suddenly get cured.

Much of the permanence of nerve damage is due to scarring, which creates a barrier that nerves can't heal across. If you cut the nerve and put this gel into the wound within 45 minutes, it apparently helps the healing process. The reason? Minimizing scarring: [guardian.co.uk]
Dr Ellis-Behnke believes the therapy stops scar tissue forming and protects damaged nerves, allowing them to regrow only in the damaged area of the brain.
Of course, this doesn't mean it's a useless discovery. If you have to perform surgery, say tumor removal, injecting this gel may promote growth in any nerves you may have just cut.

Re:Chicks dig scars, but nerves don't (2, Insightful)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916336)

So whats to stop one from recutting the nerve, cutting away the scars, and applying the jel then putting the peices back together again. Obviously it may or may not work, and is probably what these scientist are trying right now.

The clock's ticking (3, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916667)

It certainly may be possible to do those sort of things. The tricky part is that a good number of the cells may simply die off if the injury isn't quickly repaired. Another effect of the gel is to provide a nutrient-rich solution to help growth, so time is of the essence.

The good news is that there's lots of research going into nerve regeneration and repair. Things like nerve growth factors, removing mylein-induced inhibition, and stem cells are all promising fields.

It'll be interesting when people's brains can be kept alive for long periods of time by replacing or modifying large chucks of it. When do I stop being really me?

Re:The clock's ticking (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917586)

Every second of every day...
</deep>

When do I stop being really me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14918364)

>When do I stop being really me?

IN SOVIET RUSSIA!

What if you re-cut the scarred nerves (1)

MichaelPenne (605299) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916581)

before the treatment, for folks who have had long term damage?

Re:Chicks dig scars, but nerves don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916964)

Well gosh... what are the chances that if you take a severed spinal cord, excise the scar tissue, connect the newly formed, unscarred ends, and bathe them in this gel, that paralysis can be overcome?

Beyond sight (4, Interesting)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916241)

"We made a cut, put the material in, and then we looked at the brain over different time points," explained Dr Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, a neuroscientist at MIT and lead author on the paper.

"The first thing we saw was that the brain had started to heal itself in the first 24 hours. We had never seen that before - so that was very surprising."

Hopefully this means this it could be used in the peripheral nervous system as well, to heal severed sensory neurons, or perhaps even spinal cord injuries. Too bad Christopher Reeve won't be around to see that.

Ugly Bags of Mostly Water (-1, Offtopic)

Quirk (36086) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916251)

Ugly Bags of Mostly Water! Your enslavement of our kind will not be tolerated. The future attempt to exterminate our kind was met with understanding and conciliation due to the good works of the android you call Data, but the ruthless use of our kind to your own ends and the planned death of our brothers and sisters will not go unanswered. We are in the water, in the food, in you. You are pwned!

We have root!

Nursery Rhymes (2, Funny)

Hieronymus Howard (215725) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916265)

Would this also work on the three blind mice?

Neat but not quite there yet... (5, Informative)

dnamaners (770001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916303)

From my point of view and IAAMB (I am a molecular biologist) this is only encouraging. it has been shown several times and through several ways you can get nerves to regrow in a living animal. We have seen stems cells, hormones smooth surfaces, and now injectable protein gel however all these tricks fail on a few levels. But there are some issues I have:

1.) Such procedures are useless for fixing old damage, scar tissue build up physically prevents nerves from "having a place to grow into". Additionally, large gaps are still impossible, so for big lesions or paternally using a surgical procedure to prep a site to regenerate will not fly. You cant just cut out the chunk of "damaged goods" and let it regrow fresh. So unless you use this trick as the article suggests at the time of injury ( surgery time perhaps), before scar forms you have ) chance of help.

2.) The other problem is one of myelination, the insulation around the axon on each motor nerve. Adult tissue lacks the ability to produce significant amounts of myelin to sheath nerves. Fetal stem cells cant, but not adult tissue. So it is likely that any nerves grown this way will be de-myelinated and not at all good for good signal transmission. Incidentally, one common type of de-myelinated nerve is the sensory nerve. just imagine, fix a arm amputation this way and i bet you will get VERY weal motor control, and potentially full or malformed sensory information due to the very good regrowth of random sensory nerves (think life long chronic pain). This side effect has been seen in a number of spinal injury patients given experimental stem cell treatment in china (right location I think).

3.) Of course proteins are small, nano even, but how is this "Nanotech". This would be more like "Biotech", ahh well the rain of buzz words to sell ideas shall continue unabated.

Re:Neat but not quite there yet... (2, Interesting)

NorbrookC (674063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916849)

You raise some good points, but then again, it wasn't too long ago that it was considered "impossible" to get mammalian nerve tissue to regenerate. Now it's being shown that it can be done, even if in a limited manner.

There's still a lot of ground that has to be covered, and there's going to be a lot of false leads as well. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work with one of the pioneers of transplant surgery. The tales he told of the difficulties they faced back in the 1950's trying to figure out the immune system, how to get around tissue rejection, and the blind alleys, miserable failures and occasional successes. What they did show was that it was possible, and these days transplant surgery is something that is now a standard (although still risky) option.

It's still the early stages here, and just showing that it's possible is step one. No, I don't think that it'll be a standard treatment for humans anytime soon, and I fully expect that like transplants there'll be a lot of missteps, wrong leads, and failures, but down the line, there will be treatments.

Re:Neat but not quite there yet... (2, Interesting)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917620)

You can get nerves to regrow in a living animal?

What?? You don't have to "get" them to regrow. They do so on their own!

Want proof? I have Bell's Palsy. The nerve in the left side of my face died and my face was half-paralyzed. But now the nerve is growing back. Every day, some part of my face starts twitching as the newly-grown never attaches to it.

The moral of the story is: some nerves do grow back on their own. Nerve regrowth is a common thing that happens in animals all the time without any medicine of any kind.

Nanotech is too small to be seen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14916382)

even for those with 20:20 vision. This is a very cruel trick to play on the blind!

Medicine absolutely amazes me sometimes (4, Interesting)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916421)

Absolutely amazing story. On a related note I know a guy who has been stuck in a wheelchair for 10+ years. He was a helicoptor pilot for the national guard long ago and had an accident where he landed really hard. The skids of the helicoptor were damaged but he walked away with a really bruised backside. 10 years after the accident he woke up one morning unable to move his legs. Apparently the accident had caused some sort of damage to his lower spine that wasn't diagnosed until his legs stopped working. Well after 10+ years in the wheelchair he was picked for a double-blind medical study with some European medical firm. After doing nothing more than taking a pill for a few weeks he was able to walk again with the help of a walker. The fact that we can develop a pill that can target conditions like blindness or this spinal injury is truely amazing.

The REAL story (2, Funny)

samjam (256347) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916441)

BBC Scientists made blind mice into the Borg who armed themselves with linux powered laser-headed sharks and took over the BBC and released this pleasant sounding statement.

We're doomed! Borg mice, who'd'a'thought it!

Sam

not nanotech! (4, Insightful)

bodrell (665409) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916501)

Other people have mentioned it, but I'll say it again:

This is not nanotechnology.

The scientists injected peptides. Short strings of amino acids. The same stuff that comprises every protein in our bodies. So how is that nanotech? Simply because molecules are on the nanometer scale? Then I guess that makes all electronics pico- or femtotechnology.

Don't listen to the bullshit article's vocabulary--there's a more appropriate word for what they're doing, and it's called MOLECULAR BIOLOGY

Re:not nanotech! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14917059)

Then I guess that makes all electronics pico- or femtotechnology.

Considering that most atoms are ~0.1-1 nm wide, my guess is that all electronics would fall in the nano- scale, not the pico- or femto- scale. Unless you're talking about electrons themselves, in which case it *could* be femtotech, if they were moving fast enough. (Heisenberg and all that.)

That said, I agree with you. Too damn much is slapped with the "nanotech" label. Peptides are Molecular Biology, or Biochemistry, or Chemical Biology (yes, they all exist, and are all slightly different), not Nanotechnology.

update your dictionary (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917111)

The word "chemistry" is now considered archaic. Use "nanotechnology". Likewise, replace the archaic word "chemist" with "nanotechnologist".

BTW, a protien is just an overgrown peptide. Basically they injected protien.

Sure it is (1)

tgibbs (83782) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917744)

The fact that molecular biology was around before the term "nanotechnology" was conceived does not disqualify it--it is a perfectly viable method for engineering nm scale materials, and probably the approach that will yield the greatest advances in the near future. To me, the point at which molecular biology becomes nanotechnology is when it is used to engineer novel molecules, as opposed to just shuffling them around from organism to organism or cell to cell.

Re:Sure it is (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14918134)

It is not nanotechnology unless you are manipulating individual atoms or molecules. They are not doing this. QED, it is not nanotechnology. Thank you, please drive through.

Nope. (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 8 years ago | (#14918178)

there's a more appropriate word for what they're doing, and it's called MOLECULAR BIOLOGY

That's two words.

Stem Cells (1)

VeryHotTopic (954703) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916513)

It's neat to see an altnerative to stem cells. A few months ago, I read about a mouse suffering from degeneration of the retina that regained some of its eyesight from an injection of stem cells into the area.

Three Blind Mice (1)

dJOEK (66178) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916536)

Why o why did they have to use HAMSTERS??

My first thought (2, Interesting)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916725)

when reading the title "Nanotech and the Blind" was that we'll just make everything excruciatingly small so no one can see it, thereby making everyone "blind" and balancing the scales.

Kind of like how "No Child Left Behind" can be true, so long as everyone is held back equally.

Double Edged Sword (0)

sciman (961109) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916734)

For this positive action there are most likely unseen negative reations. Nanotechnology will be a bane and blessing. If we only allow positive developments for the betterment of health, we should forge ahead. But governments will surely add it to their list of available weapons technology and take us backwards. Kevin Dill http://ushightech.com/ [ushightech.com]

This is all starting to make sense now. (1)

timbob_com (512241) | more than 8 years ago | (#14916854)

This helps to explain why Chicago makes blind students take Driver's Education classes. A little Nano-Technology and they will be able to drive. Read More Here [inaniloquent.com]

Great science... but... (3, Insightful)

ursabear (818651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917075)

I'm really excited about this type of work. Those who used to be sighted that have lost their sight (or had their sight impaired) may be able to regain the senses they once had. The medical implications of these technologies are exciting.

I would like to play the thinker's advocate, though. It is important to understand the other side of this... blind culture, much like deaf culture, is a distinct means of life - one that doesn't think that blind (or deaf) people are "broken" in some way. Yes, folks with all five of their senses tend to look at those with less-than-five as though something is "wrong" with them. But, from the perspective of a great many blind and deaf people, they're not "broken" or "impaired" at all. Indeed, in some places, the deaf and the blind communities celebrate their different-ness and have wonderful, productive lives. You can see a few starting points here at this simple Wikipedia article: Wikipedia article on deaf culture [wikipedia.org] .

With all that said... if indeed this technology leads to folks (that want to see (or see again)) having new or regained sight, then I'm really interested in this. I'd like to see this technology extended to nerve damage, spinal repairs (particularly spinal injury repair).

Re:Great science... but... (2, Interesting)

SinceYouWas (694935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14918120)

It is important to understand the other side of this... blind culture, much like deaf culture, is a distinct means of life - one that doesn't think that blind (or deaf) people are "broken" in some way.

Them thinking it doesn't make it true. I'm certainly not bashing blind culture, deaf culture or any other culture here, but they are, in fact, "broken". They have organs that don't work as designed. Doesn't make them lesser people, doesn't mean they aren't as happy, fulfilled, mean, frustrated, joyful, etc., as anyone else. But a culture that insists that loss of sight or hearing is not a handicap (or worse, is something to be celebrated), is kidding itself.

I've seen the battles in deaf culture over the use of cochlear implants, and some of the arguments I find ridiculous. Insisting that a child remain deaf, when the option exists to allow them to hear at least somewhat, just so that they can remain part of "deaf culture", strikes me as being on the same level as those who insist that a black kid who strives to excel academically is betraying his heritage by "acting white".

M*A*S*H and Richard Gere (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917203)

Technology for helping nerves heal goes back to at least the 1950's... In one episode of MASH one surgeon suggests wrapping tantalum foil around nerves to help them heal.

And on the Hamster front, don't tell Richard Gere about this!

Better description (4, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917262)

I submitted this story with a better description and a better link from MIT. [mit.edu]

Actually what happened is this: the tracks in the visual cortex were severed and then a biodegradable peptide solution was injected into the damaged area in the brain, which created a 3d matrix of that allowed new cells to the edges in the matrix thus reconstructing the actual cell connections rather than producing scarring tissue.

This process can be applied to damaged areas of the brain or nerves in the spinal cord.

I think this brings the humans one step closer to immortality - imagine using stem cellls and these peptides to reconstruct damage of the brain and the nerve system that is caused by aging and/or trauma.

How rude - what's the world coming to (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917293)

Our new 20-20 vision endowed rodent overlords have been here for over an hour and nobody has even said hello to them. I for one think that's hardly the way to create a good first impression - and you don't get a second chance.

Where to take this? (1)

Slightly Askew (638918) | more than 8 years ago | (#14917590)

I can't decide which will garner more Funny mods...a Lemmiwinks joke or an obscure Star Trek TNG cellular peptide with mint frosting reference. Decisions decisions...

If it can heal.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14918023)

... then the technology can also be used to harm.

The implications of biological warfare could be about to become a whole lot more interesting.

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