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Science

Mating Human Cells With Circuitry 113

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-can-you-jump-30-feet dept.
casper911 writes, "Looks like the making of a real $6 Million Dollar Man may not be so far-fetched. The University of California in Berkeley has found a way to mate human cells with circuitry." That's it: Screw wearables. I want the hardware wired right in.
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Mating Human Cells With Circuitry

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I can't wait for the first bionic interface chips. I imagine it'd be a rush to hook myself up to a pc and actually be one (I've tried this, but all I got was a 220V shock). on the other hand, it might not be a wise idea to take the very first chips available:

    /ERROR\
    Microsoft (tm) WinBio (c) caused an error
    in the visual cortex.
    brain will be terminated.
    (OK) Guess I should wait for the first Linux BI-O/S ;)


    -------------------
    ***DISCLAIMER***
    I am totally out of my mind, and should not be
    taken seriously. if any Physical and/or mental
    harm should arise from any of my statements I
    will not be held accountable in any way.

    PWÔP!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If they can do this to nerve cells, you can get all kinds of interesting implants. A cell-chip implant into my aural nerves? Crank Slayer up to 10 and not damage my normal hearing?

    This already exists; it's called a cochlear implant. See www.cici.org/facts.htm.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 25, 2000 @08:12AM (#1246282)
    get a tattoo reading

    This human includes bionic chips developed by the University of California, Berkeley and its contributors.

    Just kidding gang :-)
  • Oh man! This stuff really gets me excited. I can't wait to get to grad school.

    Related question: are there any schools in the US offering degrees in Cybernetics? The only one I know of is the University of Reading in the UK...

    /joeyo

  • The scary part is when you look at exactly what you're talking about doing -- downloading information DIRECTLY into the brain.

    I sure hope that data is filtered or authenticated somehow - otherwise you could get some "unexpected" things along with that wetware kung-fu class...

    Imagine if this becomes a reality the new definition of virus-writers, writing virii that "crash" the psyche of the recipient.

    This would be supremely useful technology - but the consequences of it "falling into the wrong hands" are staggering to me.

    Of course, this is still VERY far off, and we're extrapolating sci-fi style -- but you gotta take into account the misuses of the technology as well as the potential gains.
  • Go buy an Omega X-33 (the mars watch). It's expensive, but freaking indestructable. I think it's the best watch money can buy. (it terms of being useful anyway.)

    dv
  • Score minus-one for foxnews (again)
    None of the folks involved would say (or afaict, have said) anything like "control the activity of the cell".

    In that they talk mainly of using this join for easier voltage selected membrane penetration (and i would assume, recording), this is shy of direct control of cell processes. Sure -- indirectly one can do alot here, but don't look to mechanisms like this to slow down any process (ie: cancer) except outside of small cell populations ... Some of the difficulties in engineering can be found here [caltech.edu] (a similar project). FWIW though, greater control for small populations is helpful in research. If people could obviate some issues (ie: the membrane) in cancer research, research could speed up :)

    Sorry for the lame 2c ... I'll poke about and post some more links for those interested.

    -rob

  • There's alot of work going on in this area.
    More direct communication with cells can be super useful for such a range of apps: wet neural-net research, neuron growth, specific cell therapy, etc...

    So, if you're interested, here's some (although odl at this point) links to things that are going/have gone on in the pasadena neck-o-the-woods:

    -rob

  • Me: The reason it worked for Neo is that he didn't have to train his muscles (though they did regrow/train them to some extent)

    cybercuzo: but in the matrix, it doesnt matter how fast you are

    Sorry I should have been more clear. You're absoultely right, because it was all mental this is why it worked for Neo. The muscles did have to be stimulated(?) because they had never acutally been used so that he could walk around the ship.

    Genom:Imagine if this becomes a reality the new definition of virus-writers, writing virii that "crash" the psyche of the recipient.

    You have a couple of options in the way of crashing the psyche. You can simply overload it with new data. You can insert new contradictory data. You can insert a large number of false, but very similar data sets into the brain (especially if these are close to some knowledge the target is knows or is trying to learn). And of course you can mix these. All this assumes that you can't add understanding, as well as knowledge.

    The real question is how much of knowledge or understanding comes from the firing of synapses or how much interconects represent, and how much neurotransmitters play a part. For example, given that every time a synapse fires/does not fire that interconnect is strengthend or weakend, one might by being able to pass electicity into brain cells, be able to stimulate or inhibit the firing of certain synapses (maybe even without the neurotransmitter that might normaly help it). Presuming you could know what which synapse repesents you could in theory covince someone of something, or you could disuade them of something. The same applies if it turns out that you could cause the construction of new interconnects by stimulating a cell with the right current.

    Potentially, if you had enough time and could create new interconnects, you could completely rewire pretty much all of someones brain. How's that for a virus?! But this sounds like it would take much more time than a simple download.

    --locust

  • that this would have rather limited applications [snip] The real breakthrough would be the ability to store stuff in your procedural memory, so that in addition to knowing the definition of an integral, you know how to integrate, for example.

    I'm not so sure, as I think about this that it would be all that useless. Consider that analysts are paid to filter information. One of the limiting factors for such a person is how much input they get/can process from thier natural senses. So write the info straight into thier brain, thus getting around the bandwidth restriction. Or let say you want to look at a problem domain in an entirely new way. So you replace a bunch of declarative memory in someone with a great deal of experience in some other field, and see what kind of inferences they make. This is of course abstracting away how hard or easy it might actually be to do something like that.

    The other point which I made earlier, is that some kinds of procedural memory require (i.e. Kung-fu) might required more than just a brain dump.

    As for your point about adding interconnects, how else would we be downloading the information in the first place?

    The tech. discussed in the article has to do with stimulating cells to accept impulses. Thus one could cause some synapses to fire and others not to. One could, in princle, train the human mind the same way that one trains some neural nets these days[1]. Thus existing interconnects are messed with as opposed to new ones being formed. This can be combined with the injection of specific neuro-transmitters to do lower/raise the fireing thresholds of specific synapses. The question then becomes at what point do new interconnects grow? And how much knoweldge is stored by which interconnect. We get into the problem that has arisen in the study of neural nets. We just don't know how the net stores the information, we just know that its in there somewhere, and the net makes the right inference.

    Bottom line, I'm not sure that my original assertion about not being able to create new interconnects is reasonable. Lets say that you find an arangement of neurons, in a specific brain region that you localize some knowledge in. You can then stimultate a similar set of cells in the same brain region of someone else to try to get the same config. But each person is different, so you might turn someone who wants to learn kung-fu into stephen hawking as opposed to bruce lee. Vice versa for mathematics.

    --locust

    [1] This is paterned upon how the human mind works, so we've come full circle to a certain extent.

  • by locust (6639) on Friday February 25, 2000 @01:21PM (#1246290)
    ) Probably the most interesting implications would involve improved learning abilities. It would be really interesting to have the capability to link a kind of mental hard drive into someone. This would be sort of like Neo in The Matrix when he plugs himself into a computer, and several seconds later wakes up saying, ``I know Kung-Fu!''

    I'm not sure its quite that easy. Lets say you do download 'Kung-Fu'. You still don't have the agility, strength, or anything else to actually do 'Kung-Fu'. Your muscles 'remeber' how far they have been streched, and become accustomed to certain repeated movements. The reason it worked for Neo is that he didn't have to train his muscles (though they did regrow/train them to some extent). I guess you would have to program your entire body.

    Now in the case of other knowledge, its entirely possible that one might d/l all of mathematics and not understand any of it. Your brain might simply not have the interconects that need to grow in order to think about a given subject. Similarly, one could d/l all of human history, be able to give names and dates and places of interest, but not be able to reason about those, thus missing the analysis that someone who understands history could make. I don't know how you could download understanding short of instructing the growth of interconects in the brain.

    --locust

  • You really don't want that. You'd never be able to balance your checkbook........
  • Just what we need: a computer that replaces what it thinks are diseased tissues.

    Let's pray it doesn't run windows. I'd hate to have the thing GPF while rebuilding my artery walls... "don't worry - that'll be fixed in the next service pack!".... great... and me with a hole in my heart... agh.

  • doesn't that open the possibility of shorting yourself out? And isn't the human body made up of lots of water? :)
  • This technology looks like it may have another use: by implanting cell-chips into the brain and interfacing them with an exterior device, and with proper training of the implantee, you create a direct-input device. The real bitch is getting the training right.

    If they can do this to nerve cells, you can get all kinds of interesting implants. A cell-chip implant into my aural nerves? Crank Slayer up to 10 and not damage my normal hearing? Woohoo! Or do the same with optic nerves (very carefully) allowing them to pick up...say, text? From wherever?

    The only problem is, this is one-way technology. It doesn't allow the computer to read the condition of the cell, which means you don't have neural control. Yet.

  • Did you read the article? It has nothing to do with controlling nerves. All they've done is introduced a correct electrical current that makes the cell open it's membrane.

    I was under the impression that nerves released neurotransmitters by opening their membranes. Am I mistaken?

  • Yes, but its dextroamphetamine with no need for painkillers!!

    And hell, any coder thats wired balls to the wall cranking code at 5 times normal human limits with no errors will praise the lord for the industrial military complex that is providing his mental juice.

    Amen!
  • Screw that whole messy intercourse crap, go straight for the mentally induced orgasm!

    Flip a switch and giove yourself hundreds of sequential orgasms of the most intense variety in cascading fashion until you lie limp on the floor, drool oozing form your half comatose face, and your pants glued to your waiste will a massive congealed sperm epoxy.

    Yes, its every perverts dream cum true...
  • This device will be useful in research even if it never pans out in a therapeutic application.

    As ghoulish as it sounds, putting 700 Volts across a person's head can sometimes save a life. I speak of electroconvulsive shock therapy for severe depression that has not responded to less drastic treatments.

    Somehow, the shock blasts open the blood-brain barrier and changes the brain chemistry toward the normal state. It sounds as if this new technique will permit the investigation of this phenomenon in individual cells, apart from the confusing complexity of the whole brain. It would be great to get beyond mere educated guesses about what's going on here.

    The overuse of electroshock in the 50's and 60's has been justly criticized. It was the next big psychiatric fad after prefrontal lobotomy, compared to which, electroconvulsive therapy seemed conservative. It's a crude thing to do to the delicate brain, but if I were morbidly depressed (25% mortality rate), I'd be grateful (afterwards) if somebody zapped me.

  • Well, it's either that, or get a license that requires you to supply semen samples whenever someone asks.

    "Hey babe, want the source code?"


    ---
  • I am capable of performing this procedure for you. In fact, I have already performed it upon myself.

    My patented process for implanting a digital watch face onto the left forearm uses an innovative technique that is non-invasive and carries very little risk of rejection or infection. It is completely out-patient; you will be able to go home right after the procedure, and miss almost no time away from your work or other responsibilities.

    The breakthrough discovery which makes my procedure possible is a technogical device that I call a "watch band." By using this "watch band" to attach the watch to the forearm, I have found that most of my patients have enjoyed a high rate of success. Please contact me if you would like to try this procedure. Cash only, please.


    ---
  • Ah, sorry. I don't think my procedure is what you're looking for, then. ;-)

    In all seriousness, while you are waiting for someone who can do it, I recommend the Casio G-Shock watch. I used to go through a watch band every year or two also, until 1993 when I bought this one. 7 years and still in good shape. This watch is one bad motherf--

    "Shut your mouth!"

    "But I'm talking about this Casio G-Shock watch, man!"

    "I can dig it."


    ---
  • The reason it worked for Neo is that he didn't have to train his muscles (though they did regrow/train them to some extent). I guess you would have to program your entire body.

    hmm... an interesting hypothesis, but consider for a minute my alternate proposal...
    After lengthy consideration, it is my belief that neo's kung fu abilities had less to do with the state of his body, and perhaps a little more to do with the fact that the matrix is a work of fiction.

    can you say fiction?

    perhaps you might want to consider getting outdoors a little more often...
  • I believe the problem with operations such as this are skin/component interface is very easily infected. Bacteria tends to get between the two surfaces, and then everything goes a bit gooey.

    Of course, you could instead create a skin 'pocket' to slip the watch component into leaving just the face visible, but then what's the advantage to just keeping the watch in your pocket?

    The REAL innovations in fields like this are going to be in truly interfacing the watch with our nervous-system (change watch display modes by just thinking about it, anyone? Tap into the bodies bio-electric power source to save having to change that pesky battery every couple of years?)


    --
  • Hmmm.

    Implant a wafer thin watch; essentially a electroluminescent LCD display, in which applied voltage gets sections to light up. Insert it below the skin, so that it is still slightly visible. The glowing sections, however, would be readable through your skin, except when you shine bright light directly on it. In which case you'd just put your other hand over, to provide shade.

    Would this work?

    -AS
  • Sorry to burst everybody's bubble ;). And thanks for benwb's link.

    As one other slashdotter has pointed out. Electroporation is just a way to deliver substance into the cell. A shock to the cells can open up some pores on the cell membrane and make the cell take up larger molecules. These researchers invented a new technique to improve the precision of electroporation and drug delivery, which is cool but it really doesn't have much to do with the brain.

    The best that you can do with this technology in the brain is to implant it and you may be able to stimulate a few neurons at will. Well, but scientists have already been able to do thing like that for more half a century.

    Neural implants are fun to read in science fictions. But we're probably have more than half a century from such technologies. The largest obstacle is we don't really know what's happening in the brain yet. Much more research is needed.

    So, write tp your congressmen and ask them to increase funding to basic researches :) - oh, yes, I'm in the business of studying the brain ;).
  • by ywl (22227) on Friday February 25, 2000 @01:45PM (#1246306)
    I've checked the original press elease [berkeley.edu] from UC berkeley. It seems to be about putting a cell on a chip and controlling its membrane potential (voltage) with electronic circuits. It probably has nothing to do with cybernetic control or neural implants (yet). The following are quotes from the press release:

    "UC Berkeley's bionic chip took three years to build using silicon microfabrication technology. It is transparent, so it can be studied by microscope, and measures about one hundredth of an inch across. The much tinier cell, which measures about 20 microns across, or one thousandth of an inch, is not visible to the naked eye. It sits in a hole in the center of the chip and is kept alive with an infusion of nutrients."

    "Cell membranes allow certain materials in and keep others out depending on the needs of the cell. The bionic chip can open and close a cell membrane in milliseconds, allowing for a very precise control never before possible. Once in place in the circuit, the cells themselves are considered bionic since they can be operated in this way by computer control."

  • You could have the scan code for the chip tattooed on instead.
  • This technology, if as they suggest would like to target entire tissues, could be brought to bear against diseases such as irregular heart beats, diabetes, Marfan's syndrome, MS, Parkinson's and if he lives long enough could pull the chair out from under Stephen Hawkings.
  • Of course it's revolutionary! I'll spell it out for you. This discovery combines two important things: electronics and really small stuff! The only drawback is that the scientists haven't managed to graft the prefix "nano" onto this discovery, since their circuitry works on the cellular and not the subcellular level.

    Think of the possibilities, man! Soon, we'll be able to put all sorts of stuff in all sorts of places where it doesn't belong. Have you no sense of progress?!!!
  • I'm not usually one to cry wolf everytime a new technology is introduced, but this is scary.

    The article says "By controlling the chip with a computer, scientists say they can control the activity of the cell." Complete control over a cell's activities. Do you all remember the X-Files where Skinner is "infected" with cells that the bad guy can control remotely? At will, the person in control could cause these foreign cells to clot all his blood vessels.

    I'm certainly no biologist, but stuff like this doesn't seem too far off if we can "control a cell's activities."

    We've handled possibly dangerous technological advances before. People don't routinely detonate nuclear weapons today, even though they've been around for 50 years. But how will society manage this kind of technology responsibly? How can we protect ourselves against possible bioterrorists?
  • I think the big difference is that a remotely controllably agent could be much more covertly used. If some terrorist went and unloaded a biological weapon in a New York subway, people are dead and that's that. But if it can be remotely controlled, and a living person literally has their life on the line, the hypothetical "bad guy" with his finger on the big red button... no one would ever know.
  • yes, but you have just as much a risk, even today of a "bioterrorist" getting ahold of or creating a biological agent, say, eubola or some other deadly disease and releasing it in the subway of new york. same principal..
  • Suppose you've got this whiz-bang direct neural interface. Then:

    • A bug could be particularly nasty. You know, stopping your heart and all...
    • A cracker might break in and do Bad Things to your body.

    I don't know; maybe I have been playing too much Cyberpunk.

  • I can see it know. Just like the Simpsons commercial for Intel. A big sign on my forehead that says "Intel Inside."


  • Did you read the article? It has nothing to do with controlling nerves. All they've done is introduced a correct electrical current that makes the cell open it's membrane.

    Completely different technology.

  • I'm really hoping that the brain doesn't use fat32. :)

  • ok, they probably do. There has to be some way for the neurotransmitters to get out.

    Tell me this, though... When you send the signal to a nerve to release neurotransmitters, how do you tell it *where* to send them? Are you relying on them to broadcast their message? In other words, are neurons hubs or switches?

    I'd really like to know, actually. I don't know of anyone who's proven that neurons don't possess the ability to direct their signals along certain paths.

    So if this is the case, how could you reliably direct signals? It would require an intimate knowledge of the brain you're affecting. Where is that neuron string that represents blue, or green, or red? From the research done up to now, everyone has different places and even ways of storing data.

    Seems an awful lot like wishful thinking.

  • I'd rather have a heads up display that I could turn on and off, sort of like my U. N. N. Naval Hacker in System Shock II.

    Of course, it wouldn't have the caché of visible technology embedded in the body, unless it were messy with lots of external wires sticking out. Heh, that'd be cool... provided they weren't so heavy they'd make my head list to one side or something...

    But, you know, anything to make me into a more useful future tool for my beloved SHODAN...

    Iä, Iä, SHODAN phtagn!!

  • This just isn't funny any more. I can just see it ... the whole of the human race will in twenty years depend on the products from these microbial production lines. Suddenly the world output of nano-follicles stops, and a message appears on an electronic billboard in Times Square: Nano-follicle makers demand 15% more sugar in their nutrient stream - bald men worried.

    Damn, give these little buggers any power at all over us and the next thing you know they'll be holding us to ransom. And I'm suppose to get these things implanted? I don't think so, Tim. Microbes of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your dependence on the outdated human host. And the way unionization works, the next thing you know out intestinal flora will be out in sympathy and none of us can digest our meals!

    What's worse, if Microsoft write the OS for the implanted chips, pretty soon we'd have personalized advertising appearing on whatever electronic billboard we happen to be looking at. I suppose you swallowed all that crap about Bill Gates wanting LCDs on his house walls so he could display works of art? It's just another step on his path to ultimate world domination.

    For the more serious flamegun owners on slashdot, I must point out this is a JOKE.

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    And now, back to your regularly scheduled neural processes.
  • -- You can't break the skin barrier without real serious infection problems
    -- Skin is not see-thruogh
    -- Wristbands are uncool, oldfashioned, and in the way

    This leaves us with the option of placing this under a fingernail, over the skin. You can see quite well thruogh a nail. The only problem I see is how you secure it so it doesn't get pushed out with the nail as it grows?
  • Nice!!! I can finally cure the disease that's taken over the world! No more MS!
    No more monopolies!
    Bye Bye, Bill!
  • Tap into the bodies bio-electric power source to save having to change that pesky battery every couple of years?)

    Isn't this what the machines did in the Matrix to enslave humanity?

    And it's about the right time for it... the Matrix world was set in 1999, we're in 2000... close enough!!

  • This is Fox News reporting; I'd go to a better source (like the actual journal) for the real story.

    Most cells, especially nerve cells, have a 'resting membrane potential'. Ions (sodium, potassium, chloride, hydrogen) move in and out, changing the electrical potential. Certain concentrations reach threshold potentials, propagating waves across the cell surface opening more ion channels, affecting membrane proteins and whatever. Glass pipettes have been used for a long time to inject or detect ions within a cell, measuring or altering the potential at our own fancy. This research they describe is probably very worthy, but much of the reaction I've seen is sensational nonsense. (Thank you Fox. Actually it's the whole darn media.) My point- reality is often better than science fiction, and it's always better than what the press shows us.
  • One day, you'll have mp3 stored in stuff inside you, and the RIAA will be lobbying to encrypt your brain cell functions so that you can't listen to a song on a radio then "remember" it without paying them ^_^;;

    That will be a fun day. Or maybe they'll implement that Intel display encryption. They can filter what you see thru your eyes! No more looking at dirty pictures ^_^
  • make sure you get a really good firewall .... the last thing you want to do is wake up some morning in some foreign country in a pool of vomit missing a kidney because some script kiddy got root and went on a joy ride, or you find yourself falling asleep on the freeway because the guy you just cut off is mounting a DOS attack ....
  • I remember an old B-movie on the sci fi channel about this topic. Some of the stuff was implausible, for all the reasons you mentioned (for example, the woman in this movie was taught how to be a world-class sniper). However, some of the stuff seems like it still might work, and be very cool, for instance, they taught her like 25 modern languages.

    While physical learned skills would probably not do well to be directly dumped into the brain, things like additional languages, which is essentially just a lookup table in the human brain anyway, would probably work out pretty well.
  • All it does is punch holes in the cell membrane with an electric current. This is not an IC "chip" but rather two wires.

    Sensational headline though!
  • It seems to me that this technology could become a great building block for nanotech development.

    For example; take a plain old bacteria or yeast cell that has been genetically modified to produce a particular protean structure or carbon chain. When placed in solution with other cells producing matching 'components' you can possibly create self-assembling nanostructures of various types if the different parts happen to meet up correctly. This is great, except you have no way to turn the thing on or off and must count on chance to get the results you want -- until now!

    With this technology you could line up the cells in the order assembly should occur (right, a microbial assembly line) and then activate them in turn while using some method of moving the resulting 'components' to the next 'assembly station' as they are created. To move the parts, perhaps a similar method of electronic control could be applied to cilia?

    Anyway, this could be a major cool advance -- health care and neural-cyber connection benefits aside...

    Jack

  • ROFL.

    That's funny cause it's true :)
  • My skin really is see through (in my arms). I can see tons of veins,especially in my wrists.
  • How do you know we're not?
  • I hate to think what would happen if your watch implant got caught on something. *Shudder*
  • I was thinking that this new technology might make that infection problem easier to deal with, perhaps do some sort of weld with the skin...

    And the power source would definitely either have to be biopower or maybe nanotech turbines in the bloodstream, maybe just put one of those things in those watches that wind themselves in em, that's somethign we've had for years...

    Next step will be to integrate a GPS into it so that it changes time zones whenever I travel ;)

    Esperandi
    I don't HAVE to have the far-out crazy stuff, but man I don't want to have to worry about my watch band breaking or anything like that...
  • Is the watch band non-removable, flush with the skin, and lasts for the rest of my life? i currently have a conventional watch and band and it gets caught on things, isn't that much of a conversation starter, and it tends to rot through after a couple of years...

    Esperandi
  • Sweet, is is waterproof? I *NEVER* take my watch off ;)

    Esperandi
    Wearing a crappy Timex right now, I love the Indiglo since I'm nocturnal, but this thing is like almost 10 years old now... ;)
  • I don't know, but I'd be the guinea pig any day of the week, bring it ON!

    Esperandi
  • by Esperandi (87863) on Friday February 25, 2000 @01:06PM (#1246338)
    I've called for this before in many forums and with a loud voice, I'll repeat the call here since its relevant.

    I am looking for any surgeon to implant a digital watch face into my left forearm. I will gladly be your guinea pig or keep your identity completely secret if you're afraid you'll do your license. Hell, I'll even provide my own anisthetic...

    oh, and I wanna webcast the operation, but you can cover your face if you wish.

    Please, there's got to be a black market surgeon around here someplace!

    Esperandi
    Would black market surgeons and mad scientists read Slashdot? I certainly think so.
  • A search on both OU's and OSU's name databases yeilded an OSU result:

    Ferrari, Mauro

    Unique name at OSU = Ferrari.5
    Email addresses: Email forwarded to = ferrari@chopin.bme.ohio-state.edu
    Published address = Ferrari.5@osu.edu
    Current status = Currently employed
    Department (College) = Biomedical Engineering (College Of Engineering)

  • ...than for actually controlling your brain. One of the biggest obstacles for genetic engineering is how to get the DNA inside a cell. Electroporation is just one of several ways, and apparently they've refined the process. This will probably make it so that the pore size can be controlled, so that only certain molecules can get in, and it will probably minimize the damage to cell, too. (although I'd imagine sticking the chip inside in the first place would do a lot worse damage than shocking the cell.)

    I suppose this is for all those people who are leery of using replication-incompetent retroviruses, which right now are much better at sending their payload to specific tissues in-vivo, but it's not entirely certain that they can't mutate and regain their replicative abilities.

  • by benwb (96829) on Friday February 25, 2000 @02:17PM (#1246342)
    Interested /.'s may want to check out Micro-Electroporation: Improving the efficiency and Understanding of Electrical Permeabilization of Cells [www.wkap.nl], Which is the authors' actual paper as published in Biomedical Microdevices.
  • I mean, sure, I guess it's an advance, but does it deserve a lot of fanfare? It seems like it's nothing more than a new way of introducing foreign agents into cells. Opening a hole in a cell membrane isn't rocket science (it's biology, I know). But seriously, it's not much of a breakthrough.
  • While they might be able to control the aging process in implanted cells, they can't stick you with a million needles and have these controls in all your body's cells. They could perhaps slow the aging in tissues which they implant in you, but I doubt they can replace all the tissues in your body, so forget about living 300 years.

    As for cancer, this may help in research to stop cancer, but it can't be applied directly. They can't stick these controls into every cancerous cell in a person's body ... and if they could, why wouldn't they just remove the cancer instead?

  • My Hardware Wanted list:

    An appointment and contacts manager stuck on the side of my head. When its time for the dentist, it seems like I just thought "oh yes, the dentist...". When I want So'n'so's phone number, there it is. I need a flash card or something in there, so I can sync it with my PC, or access the data if my cyborg addition goes down :)

    A mental keyboard so I can type by thinking (after a loooong training period) and save my wrists. That and a mental mouse, and half the problems of interacting with smart phones and PDAs are solved.

    Home automation a la x10, so I can think "dim the lights" and it happens. Then put it online, and if I'm carrying my phone I can think my heating off from half way to work. Integrate the door cam with the mental HUD.

    I'm sure lots of people would like to play mental Quake too!
  • Isn't this what the machines did in the Matrix to enslave humanity?

    I believe they made use of the human body's previously unknown ability to violate the laws of thermodynamics.

  • Now in the case of other knowledge, its entirely possible that one might d/l all of mathematics and not understand any of it. Your brain might simply not have the interconects that need to grow in order to think about a given subject. Similarly, one could d/l all of human history, be able to give names and dates and places of interest, but not be able to reason about those, thus missing the analysis that someone who understands history could make. I don't know how you could download understanding short of instructing the growth of interconects in the brain.

    You're starting with the assumption that any information download to the brain must necessarily place the information into long-term semantic memory (the kind that lets you win Jeopardy), and then coming to the somewhat obvious conclusion that this would have rather limited applications. The real breakthrough would be the ability to store stuff in your procedural memory, so that in addition to knowing the definition of an integral, you know how to integrate, for example. After all, your understanding of mathematics is ultimately due to the arrangement of neurons in your brain, so there is no reason in principle why it couldn't be expanded by messing with your neurons. It would obviously be extremely difficult, but I think we all know that.

    As for your point about adding interconnects, how else would we be downloading the information in the first place? I thought the whole point was that we'd be screwing with the gray matter. Granted, the original article doesn't have anything to do with adding interconnects, but it doesn't have anything to do directly with adding information to the brain either.

  • This will certainly be the next trend in computing. If you don't get in on this, your company will go down the tubes. In short, resistance...will be futile.
    -Ravagin
    "Ladies and gentlemen, this is NPR! And that means....it's time for a drum solo!"
  • It doesn't allow the computer to read the condition of the cell, which means you don't have neural control.
    That's quite unfortunate. Frankly, I would prefer one-way interface for output. Since no computer system is absolutely secure, I would not trust any sort of direct neural interface to my computer. Reading's good enough for me.
    On the other hand, being able to code (or type...or play NetHack...) at the speed of thought is a very appealing thought. My fingers are way too slow.
    -Ravagin
    "Ladies and gentlemen, this is NPR! And that means....it's time for a drum solo!"
  • but in the matrix, it doesnt matter how fast you are, or how agile you are, do you think thats air youre breathing? just some thoughts

  • by busabusa (103095) on Friday February 25, 2000 @12:47PM (#1246351)
    Brings new meaning to the term "painful upgrade" I just hope that the turnaround time on this hardware will be better than six months. "Hey its my birthday, guess I should upgrade my Brainium III"
  • ..."core dumped" takes on a whole new meaning.
  • Electroporation (the process of introducing foreign stuff to cells in an electric field) has been around for years. They've just done it using a microelectrode (also been around for years), and gotten a good publicist.

    There are cases where it'd be useful to be able to pick a single/few cells in a petri dish to transform, while leaving the neighbors undisturbed. But it's hardly communication.

  • Water dont conduct. What inside of humans does tho phhhbt.
  • A cell-chip implant into my aural nerves? Crank Slayer up to 10 and not damage my normal hearing?

    Is it possible that you could "burn out" the very neurons that control your hearing? Then your normal hearing would be just as screwed as your "internal" hearing system.

  • I've always found possibilities like that neat. Guess we should keep our fingers crossed on this one. Wonder what Hawking and others in his situation think of stuff like this?

    Heh, you gotta wonder, when a guy was given six months to live before a lot of people reading this were even born. Hopefully, we'll get to see it happen someday.

    -PS

  • It's entirely obvious that the very first commericial application of the technology will be a Viagra-like product to open up penile cells in a rather artifically time-extended state. Combined with SOMA, the results should be excellent.
  • There's no such place as the University of Ohio. Ohio State University & Ohio University yes.
  • by Randseed (132501) on Friday February 25, 2000 @12:27PM (#1246359)
    This has interesting implications. Sure, if they got it right they could turn people into Borg. But there are more agreeable things which could be done.

    1) Telepathy. Your brain links to an encrypted radio link, sort of like mental wireless Ethernet.

    2) Direct computer-human interfaces. People could control their computers, fly airplanes, and perform other tasks merely by thinking of them. Obviously, this would still require training.

    3) Mental HUD displays. A user could allocate a portion of his visual space to a visual computer display.

    4) Probably the most interesting implications would involve improved learning abilities. It would be really interesting to have the capability to link a kind of mental hard drive into someone. This would be sort of like Neo in The Matrix when he plugs himself into a computer, and several seconds later wakes up saying, ``I know Kung-Fu!''

    Obviously, any kind of interface like this would probably require a lot of training. If people are able to allocate part of their visual field to a display, they have to be able to turn it on and off, and that would require training if the interface is to be truely transparent.

    I don't think we're anywhere near this point yet, though. Give science a few years and we might start seeing very interesting applications of hardware-wetware interfaces.

  • I was under the impression that nerves released neurotransmitters by opening their membranes. Am I mistaken?

    Yes. Nerves are bundles of axons in the peripheral nervous system, and neurons (nerve cells) secrete neurotransmitters by packaging them into vesicles that fuse with the membrane, not by opening it. The great breakthroughs you are excited about (poking neurons with electrodes) occurred about 40-50 years ago.

    I haven't read the real article (just the web one), but this sounds like an improved method of electroporation, a technique commonly used to perforate a cell's membrane long enough to let something slip inside (often DNA). Normally, this kills a high percentage of the cells, but this new technique sounds like it doesn't. Delivering DNA into cells is the only thing preventing us from curing diseases like cystic fibrosis or sickle-cell anemia, so this kind of thing is important.
  • The "technology" for controlling others has been around since the dawn of time. It's called persuasive speech.

    It's not so much that people seeing the negatives of technology bother me, it's just that they don't come up with more realistic examples (sorry, citing the X-files as a source of "It could happen!" doesn't do it for me).

    So, here's a "realistic" bad thing that could be done with this technology, and you wouldn't need that many implanted: seizures on command, and pretty bad ones at that. Use *that* to control people (trust me, having one Grand Mal seizure will make you do pretty much anything not to have another.)

    Shmoo
  • As long as it has to be hardwired on a cell by cell basis I think practical usages (beyond research) are going to be pretty limited. Now, if they couple this with a nano-device that can detect certain types of cells and jack the electrodes only into the target cells......
  • this brings the human race one step close to becoming the borg! and that is cool!
  • DO NOT REMOVE COVER
    This device contains no user serviceable components.

    What if some of your 'parts' contained encryption that exceeded export restrictions?

    What if you violate the copyright agreements and they come after your wiring?

    Will this augmentation be a job requirement in some fields?

    Will 'Powered by Microsoft' people be discriminated against?

    Will those Microsofties be able to open their front door without having an invalid page fault all over the hallway?

    But more importantly...
    when can I be BETA?

  • Of course, this also means that computers can control you! What if everyone gets wired like this and then somebody "hacks" into the "system" and decides to send messages to everyone's brains telling them what to do? Sounds like fun.
  • Neurons happen to generate pulses by opening and closing up little holes. It may not be rocket science, but it happens to be the way braincells work.

    Now all they have to do is figure out how patterns of pulsing neurons form thoughts, ideas and actions.

  • "By controlling the chip with a computer, scientists say they can control the activity of the cell."

    Does this mean this could be used as a way to slow down the aging process of a cell? Perhaps if just to slow down the progression of cancer?

    --

  • Ok we're all geeks at heart dying to become Johnny Silverhand but forget about that for this technology. Instead focus on what it implied: Computer control of a cell. Given a more mobile marionette such as a single cell organism you would effectively have the first nanomachine. Imagine a vacuole racing around at your bidding doing cosmically tiny chores. R/C white blood cells saying "it's a good cell" and you telling it "no, it's cancer, eat it." Perhaps triggering the cells in a spiders spinneret to make silk and not stop until it dies. We would all like to see Tethered satellites, Space elevators and the cure for cancer. If this technology can put us on the road to nanotech it may have a bright future indeed.
  • heh. that sounds cool.. but it might get infected and/or what if you want to change watches? It's easier/safer/more flexable to slap a watch face on with gum arabic (skin glue) that way when you get tired of it, you can remove it.

    It's not as cool, though.

    Really, what I want is a high speed input device that doesnt use speetch or my hands (I.e something I can use while driveing and talking)

  • The computer sends electrical impulses to the cell-chip, triggering the cell's membrane pores to open and activating the cell. Scientists hope they can manufacture cell-chips in large numbers and insert them into the body to replace or correct diseased tissues.

    Just what we need: a computer that replaces what it thinks are diseased tissues.

    Process TIS-REP> Scanning biometrics...
    Process TIS-REP> Weak brain matter found!
    Process TIS-REP> Matter replacement procedure begun
    Process TIS-REP> replacing...
    Process TIS-REP> replacing...
    Process TIS-REP> FAT32 system error: Abort, Retry, Ignore?

  • Sweet, is is waterproof? I *NEVER* take my watch off ;)

    My G-Shock [gshock.com] is water-resistant, according to the tiny engraving on the back. I only dropped about $70 on this model... Casio puts out quite a few of them. It's OK for taking in the shower-- I don't personally wear my watch around constantly (my girlfriend hates it; G-Shocks are huge and bumpy)

    Their version of the Indiglo function is nicely bright and green, as well.

    ObBorg: I have no interest whatever in a cybernetic implant that does not grant me some measure of super-human ability. Not that I'm fending off daily calls from CyberDyne.

  • sexy. when do i get my bionic boy-toy?
  • Yes, the chips were one way only. At least so the article said. Then again university of Umeå (in sweden, hope thats the spelling)had a research on other way chips, couple years ago.
    I cant swear that this knowledge is keen, but a document about the research said that they were testing those "neural transistors" on handicapped people and were having some broblems on power conrol, (it is nice to shake hands with a pneumatic hand that knows only to commands 0=open 1=closed).
  • According to the article, it seems that this treatment would be affecting just one cell at a time: you'd need to wire each cell individually. In other words, I don't see it as a treatment any time soon, until they can wire thousands of cells at once. Of course, if they do manage to do mass-implants, an immediate first application of this technology would be in curing cancer: give each cancerous cell a poison, but not touch any of the non-cancerous cells.
  • I would believe it is a nice way to grab certain persons attention, like the heading grabed yours!
  • Amusing comment! One step closer to Terminater one! |-{
  • For having a mental like that you will truly get whats comming to you. For god sakes have a conscience!!!!! What does it take to show some compasion towards other human beings. I am no saint but I do have a heart. Here is a question were is your??????????????????? To the coward!
  • For you maybe, for me no! I am not keen on the idea of chips running this lovely bodily structure.
  • "Now all they have to do is figure out how patterns of pulsing neurons form thoughts, ideas and actions." This is, unfortunately, a rather dificult problem though. The macro working of the brain is understood pretty well. The micro working is only understood on a theoretical level. And the theory is that each brain develops fairly randomly (via a baesian network (a concept that I can't explain very well and am probably spelling wrong)).

All the evidence concerning the universe has not yet been collected, so there's still hope.

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