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Mice Created With Human Brain Cells 339

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the what-exactly-is-the-yuck-factor dept.
pin_gween writes "Scientists have added 100,000 human brain cells to mice in an effort to create realistic models of disorders like Parkinson's Disease. Although mice are 97.5 percent genetically identical to humans and it sounds like a large number, 100,000 only represents 0.1% of the number of cells in mice brains. FTA: 'It's true that there is a huge amount of similarity, but the differences are huge,' Snyder said. 'You will never ever have a little human trapped inside a mouse or monkey's body. [...] Researchers are nevertheless beginning to bump up against what bioethicists call the "yuck factor." 'The worry is if you humanize them too much you cross certain boundaries,' said David Magnus, director of the Stanford Medical Center for Biomedical Ethics. 'But I don't think this research comes even close to that.'"
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Mice Created With Human Brain Cells

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  • NARF! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Noctopus (694337) * on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:31AM (#14245516) Homepage
    I for one welcome our new Pinky and the Brain [uni-duesseldorf.de] overlords [uni-duesseldorf.de]. NARF!
  • 42 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:33AM (#14245518)
    The mice were furious.
  • well i think (Score:3, Insightful)

    by know1 (854868) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:35AM (#14245528)
    " 'The worry is if you humanize them too much you cross certain boundaries,' said David Magnus, director of the Stanford Medical Center for Biomedical Ethics. 'But I don't think this research comes even close to that.'"

    it's the thin end of the wedge. maybe this wasn't human enough...and nor will the next infinitessimally small step...but one day it will be too far and we won't have even realised
    • Re:well i think (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ozmanjusri (601766)
      but one day it will be too far and we won't have even realised

      Then why will it have been too far?
    • Yeah -- we ("we" as the researchers and (an infinitessimally small contribution) those who give them moral support) already crossed an important boundary.

      Before, this research was protested only by few fringe tree huggers. Now you need to count in a whole bunch of religious fundies, and they are those who can block the funding.
    • Re:well i think (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rooftop (848580)
      And maybe with the next small step they cure Parkinson's disease. Maybe it's my secular mind, but i find killing and disecting millions of mice far worse than "upsetting god" by growing an ear on a mouse or putting in some human cells.

      If the mice are happy and not in constant pain or anything, i don't really see what's wrong with it. Evolution creates new species all the time.
    • Re:well i think (Score:2, Insightful)

      by simul (113898) *
      by the standards of someone who lived 100 years ago, a man walking around after a massive heart attack would be considered a "zombie". there was serious ethical discussion of whether a heart attack should be intervened with at all. today, and angioplasty is an inexpensive, routine operation.

      bacteria with human dna now produce insulin inexpensively enough for poor diabetics to live full lives. it was not long ago that the pivelige of living a normal life as a diabetic was reserved for the wealthy.

      having s
    • >but one day it will be too far and we won't have even realised

      So? Am I the only person who thinks it might be a good idea to raise some animals closer to our level? A smarter mouse or a smarter dog is just that, a smarter animal not a human babie with paws instead of hands. Ethically, its arguably helping animals and practically it would make things like search and rescue operations run a lot smoother if the dog understood more abstract concepts and could communicate better with its handlers.

      Its funny
    • Honest question: Where's the ethical dilemma in humanizing something?
  • WTF? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tune (17738) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:36AM (#14245531)
    I thought mice - being pan dimensional beings - were far more advanced than humans (ranked 3, just after dolphins).
    This is like modding an xbox 360/ps3/whatever with a Z80 - why whould you want to do that?
    • I thought mice - being pan dimensional beings - were far more advanced than humans (ranked 3, just after dolphins). This is like modding an xbox 360/ps3/whatever with a Z80 - why whould you want to do that?

      Because somewhere, everytime you do it, a Systems Engineer dies inside.

      That, or it makes God cry. I forget exactly. Oh, well. Back to masturbating. Gotta get rid of those kittens somehow.

    • "This is like modding an xbox 360/ps3/whatever with a Z80 - why whould you want to do that?"

      Because the Sega Master System kicked ass!
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:37AM (#14245534)
    'The worry is if you humanize them too much you cross certain boundaries,'

    Translation: The worry is that the mice will sue for cruel & unusual punishment and civil rights violations if humanized too much.
  • by mahju (160244) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:39AM (#14245541)
    "Why Brain, what are we gonna to do tomorrow night?"

    "Guess... "

    "Oh yeah, try to take over the world, right... "
  • by ocelotbob (173602) <ocelot@ocelotbPARISob.org minus city> on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:41AM (#14245551) Homepage
    Yay, human-brained mice. This means that once they escape and start rampaging, scientists will have no choice but to create a race of catpeople to counter them. Of course, this will lead to revolts creating a need for dogpeople, but for a short time, I shall have my catboy! Vengance shall be mine!
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:46AM (#14245583)

    Researchers are nevertheless beginning to bump up against what bioethicists call the "yuck factor."
    Everyone wants to save Hitler's brain...
    but when you put it in the body of a Great White Shark,
    suddenly, you've gone too far.
    Professor Farnsworth
    • FRY:Hey, Wait a minute! Is this another experiment that crosses a line that man was not meant to cross?

      PROFESSOR: Holds Index finger and thumb almost together, shrugging

  • by jtangen (861406) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:48AM (#14245588)
    Remind me what's so unique about human neurons that cause people to fear that mice will somehow become conscious, thinking organisms?
  • Keeping a tally... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Metasquares (555685) <slashdot@NoSPAM.metasquared.com> on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:52AM (#14245606) Homepage
    So far we have super-strong, long-lived, regenerating mice with human brain cells. We're getting pretty close to "the mice of NIMH".
  • brain simulation? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:52AM (#14245613)
    If 100.000 brain cells is 0.1% then a mouse has 100.000.000 brain cells. How many bytes does it take to describe a brain cell? How many connections are there from a single brain cell to other brain cells? Say it takes 4 bytes to address the connections. Then 10 connections per cell make 4GByte in total. Who is going to write the software to simulate a mouse?
    • Re:brain simulation? (Score:2, Informative)

      by wanax (46819)
      Modelling 'real' neurons in detail is generally done with ~10k compartmental models, which are generally described by something like:
      http://neuron.duke.edu/cells/ [duke.edu]
      and modelled in something like:
      http://www.neuron.yale.edu/neuron/ [yale.edu]

      Even using vastly simplified neurons, like integrate & fire types, for example: http://www.nsi.edu/users/izhikevich/publications/s pikes.htm [nsi.edu]
      you still have many vastly different types of spiking behaviors.

      You then still have to deal with the fact that neurons 'generally' connect to
    • Re:brain simulation? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by penguinoid (724646) <spambait001@yahoo.com> on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @08:31AM (#14245759) Homepage Journal
      Neurons have several thousand connections, not "about 10". Furthermore, these connections are analog (have a range of strengths), say 1 byte to address the strenghts. Given about 100,000,000 brain cells, you would need almost 30 bits per connection as well, but call it 3 bytes. At 1000 connections, you need 4 kb per neuron, or 400 Gb of memory for 1 rat brain. Barely doable, but the processor power to handle all of that will not be easy to find...
      • but the processor power to handle all of that will not be easy to find...

        That's where you use the boinc software to assemble several hundred thousand systems across the Internet to run the mouse simulator. Now that the classic seti program has gone away I am sure there are a lot of people that no longer participate. Such a mouse simulator might get them to load the boinc software and allocate their systems.

        Of course the real problem is once you get such a simulator going how do you prevent it from
      • Yeah, and then when you get that simulation running we'll probably realize that there are a million different chemicals that can impact the performance of the neurons, and that we don't even know about half of them yet. Toss in local concentrations, thermal variations, etc. and you'll either need killer software or a lot more bits.

  • by illuminatedwax (537131) <stdrange@alumn i . u c h i c a go.edu> on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:59AM (#14245631) Journal
    Good to hear that NIMH is still up and running after that last scandal. They do good work.
  • by LaughingCoder (914424) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @08:07AM (#14245659)
    Scientists have added 100,000 human brain cells to mice

    Now I don't even want to touch my mouse! I guess it's back to the command line for me.
  • "Boundaries" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by base_chakra (230686) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @08:09AM (#14245668)
    The worry is if you humanize them too much you cross certain boundaries

    How about if we cross a different barrier and drop the anthropocentric bullshit.
    • Re:"Boundaries" (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ari_j (90255)
      Yes, we should definitely either treat people as indistinct from animals [wikipedia.org] or animals as people [wikipedia.org].

      Anthropocentrism is not bullshit. It's probably a necessary component to human society, and other than extremely arrogant forms of it (such as global warming as being both human-caused and within the grasp of human control to stop) it is a healthy mindset for humans to have.
    • How about if we cross a different barrier and drop the anthropocentric bullshit.

      Personally, I'm all for the misanthropic principle.

      --Rob

    • He may be talking about a more practical, rather than moral, boundary. I'm thinking along the lines of the species barrier, as it applies to disease transmission. Put enough human cells in a mouse, and perhaps the mouse-TB, that currently cannot infect us, will "figure out" how to infect a human cell. With no previous cases, we'll have no immunity to it at all, and the results could be devastating.

      Yes, diseases do cross the species barrier now (cum the asian bird flu), but chances are very low that they
  • According to recent /. coverage, mice are now

    - fearless
    - immortal
    - regenerating
    - mighty

    and now it seems
    - they have human brain cells

    We could be in trouble here. I believe the word 'kamehame-ha' would form an appropriate response to what we're creating...

  • Mouse Brain Library (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tomalpha (746163) *
    Anybody reckon they can tell the difference between a human brain and a mouse brain? Check out the Mouse Brain Library [mbl.org] and the Human Brain Library [harvard.edu]. There are a couple of obvious difference in shape, but the individual structures are remarkably similar.
  • so far... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gravis Zero (934156) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @08:24AM (#14245738)
    so just for the record, we can make super strong fearless immortal mice that can sing, regenerate body parts, sniff out landmines, and have partial human brains. scientists don't mod their computer cases, they mod their mice!
  • "But the brain poses an additional level of concern because some envision nightmare scenarios in which a human mind might be trapped in an animal head."

    Someone kindly explain to President Bush why this is impossible. And don't laugh. He doesn't like being laughed at.
  • Mouse? (Score:2, Funny)

    So typical of Logitech to toss out a new mouse with *great* new features (human like response!) two weeks after I buy their latest dual-laser bluetooth model. Anyone know the DPI on this new mouse?
  • "'The worry is if you humanize them too much you cross certain boundaries,' said David Magnus, director of the Stanford Medical Center for Biomedical Ethics. 'But I don't think this research comes even close to that.'"


    There are those of us that thing animal experimentation is already an example of crossing the boundaries of what science can do ethically.

    (I always get flamed for saying this on slashdot...)
    • There are those of us that thing animal experimentation is already an example of crossing the boundaries of what science can do ethically. (I always get flamed for saying this on slashdot...)

      Flamed, or presented with counter-arguments?

      I think it is fine to kill or hurt animals to provide clothing, food, to test medications, and to advance science in general. I also think we should keep the suffering of the animals in question to a minimum, and that our use of animals should stop when there are good al

  • *rolls eyes* Why should there be a "yuck factor" associated with it? I mean, the way they get the brain cells there is by injecting dead baby into them.

    As for the comment made in the article that there has never been a case where embryonic stem cells have been injected into humans, I cast aspersions on that assertation. I remember reading a Discover magazine article about 5 years ago where they were experimenting with injecting stem cells into the brains of people with Parkinsons. The article was actually

  • But quite often on my contracts I see humans with mice brains.

    They are called managers.
  • Researchers are nevertheless beginning to bump up against what bioethicists call the "yuck factor."

    Yeah, because causing brain damage on purpopse, then killing the animal a few weeks later, often for no apparent reason [animalaid.org.uk], is usually ethically fine.

    • "Often for no apparent reason"

      Apparent to whom, the scientists running the experiments or fundamentalist activists unwilling to see anthing contrary to their extremist viewpoints ?

      Animals are animals, humans are human and don't actually need any justification to hunt, kill, torture, eat or experiment on animals.
  • [Insert Stuart Little Joke Here]
  • Animal studies (Score:2, Interesting)

    by idhindsight (920184)
    are innefective. Animals are simply too different from humans. Placing human brain cells in them to make them more similar is like putting a hat on them and saying "Look, they're little cowboys!"

    Mice don't exist so that we can use them as disposable commodities.

  • Even with full humain brain, these mice would be no match for my cat Katerina. Humans are not. I wish I could build an AI model of her.
  • Abby Normal - Mice tap dancing around bellowing "Puttin on da witz!"
    or maybe
    Samuel L Jackson - "Who the fuck moved my goddamn cheese, motherfucker?!"
  • Somehow the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy doesn't seem quite so far fetched as before.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

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