Month: July 2002

Reconnecting with Cloned Neurons

Toss in some cloned neurons into a gaping hole in your spinal cord, and what do you get? It’s very likely you might just find yourself walking again in no time at all.

This is at least what scientists at the University Of South Florida Health Sciences Center are anticipating. Instead of plugging in a device that relies on silicon chip-interfaced brain cells to replace damaged nervous communication links, Prof. Samuel Saporta and his group directly transplant neurons grown from a special type of cancer cell. These neurons connect up with the existing network on their own without any outside control.

This is a very critical concept that we must understand in more detail, not only for the above application, but also for making neuron devices. If we want to be able to control the activity of an implanted device, we must be able to design the neurons in such a way that they will properly communicate with the recipient’s existing neural network.

Neuron are capable of connecting up to other neurons in functional ways on their own, which an example of “self-organization” (to throw in a buzz-word). Before neurotechnologies will every be widely useful, we must understand the self-organizational properties of neurons–as has been indirectly witnessed by Saporta’s team–in order to guide the proper development of neural prosthetic devices.

[Read the article from ScienceDaily Magazine]

Preventative Maintenance for Neurons

Once again, scientists are discovering new reasons why the adage that your brain cells never grow back is not entirely correct. The article below describes the recent results from Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne of Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Stanford University where his group fed a special molecule to a neuron and then cut it (in a rat, of course). The neuron’s structures grew back after the injury giving some clues as to how we might be able to build on this technique to help humans repair a damaged nervous system.

[Read the article from Yahoo! News]

Who… or what is your new neighbor?

If you could pick–and I’m sure you’ll rarely get this chance–the next family to move in next door to you, who would you pick? The Partridge Family? The Adams Family? The Harriets? How about… The First Cyborgs.

Well, small scale bionic applications are actually being installed in a large number of people, primarily for medical conditions that fail to respond to traditional therapies. So, it will become increasingly more likely over the next decade that your neighbor will be “hard wired” in some way. This article from ZDNet News provides a nice objective overview of many ideas applications that are popping up in the neurotechnology industry. You should at least skim through the article, so that you’ll be ready when your send over a house-warming pie to your new neighbor.

Be thoughtful regarding some of the applications, however. This suggestion is certainly not encouraging “dooms-day” reactions to bionics, but to be wary of new technology companies spitting out bionic chips for uses where alternate, cheaper, and more reasonable approaches are available.

[Read the article from ZDNet News]

Last updated April 5, 2020