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Medicine Science

Human Mini-Brains Growing Inside Rat Bodies Are Starting To Integrate (inverse.com) 193

At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience starting November 11 in Washington D.C., two teams of scientists plan to present previously unpublished research on the unexpected interaction between human mini-brains and their rat and mouse hosts. "In the new papers, according to STAT, scientists will report that the organoids survived for extended periods of time -- two months in one case -- and even connected to lab animals' circulatory and nervous systems, transferring blood and nerve signals between the host animal and the implanted human cells," reports Inverse. "This is an unprecedented advancement for mini-brain research." From the report: That mini-brains can even be grown in the lab is a huge advancement in the first place, as they have many of the same characteristics as living human brains that are in the early stages of development. Though they're not "alive" in the same sense that you and I are, they grow and are organized into different layers like our brains are. They even react in similar ways to stimuli like psychedelic drugs. Organoids are poised to revolutionize research on the human brain since scientists can perform tests on them that would be unethical to attempt on living humans. STAT also reports that a third lab, in addition to the two presenting at the Society for Neuroscience meeting, has successfully connected human brain organoids to blood vessels. This attempt veered into such challenging ethical territory, though, that the lab reportedly paused its efforts.

Human Mini-Brains Growing Inside Rat Bodies Are Starting To Integrate

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  • Ethics or morals? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, 2017 @10:42PM (#55523609)

    Ethical is informing someone of the risks, not misrepresent anything for the purpose of obtaining consent.

    Moral is can't do it at all because of some taboo.

    Mini brains in mice are a clever workaround. As long as we can pretrnd its like growing vegetables, its ok.

    Scientists should be careful to ensure they can't communicate meaningfully with these minibrains, because the instant one of those things signals that it's hurting or wants the pain to stop, the ethics and morals will apply again and we will be having strange discussions about whether those mini brains come with souls or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I could have sworn there were laws against this kind of experimentation, but I guess in the face of the threat of being "left behind" all that stuff is out the window and anything goes now?
    So I'm allowed to grow a giant human brain in a jar now if I like? It's ok apparently because 'they're not "alive" in the same sense that you and I are'.

  • by Idisagree ( 4302481 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @10:58PM (#55523673)

    Pinky: Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?

            Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky - try to take over the world!

  • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @11:03PM (#55523683)

    If it sounds like the intro to a horror movie / game, maybe you should think twice about proceeding....

    • If it sounds like the intro to a horror movie / game, maybe you should think twice about proceeding....

      Why? We've had this for centuries and millennia in reverse form, rat brains in human bodies, we call them politicians.

    • Me quoting a movie review a decade ago of "Deep Blue Sea" (spoiler) as reasons colleges need to be careful about how they educate humans (including about morals): http://www.pdfernhout.net/read... [pdfernhout.net]
      "Some scientists are out in the middle of the ocean, trying to reproduce proteins in shark's brains. These proteins are the cure for Alzheimer's, and one character even gives a half-assed speech about how she's driven by memories of her father's mental illness. Well, to harvest more protein, that scientist makes th

  • I'm still not worried about an imminent invasion of rat multiborgs [theguardian.com].
  • by Q-Hack! ( 37846 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @11:12PM (#55523717)

    Welcome our new hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional overlords.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So scientists create brains in rats and then give them drugs?

    Wtf kind of science are we doing nowdays?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Life is a gradient!
    Something can be just a bit alive!
    These brains certainly aren’t dead, now are they?

    Single atoms are less alive than chemical compounds.
    Normal chemical compounds are less alive than prions, but more alive than single atoms.
    Prions are less alive than complex proteins, but more alive than normal chemical compounds.
    Complex proteins are less alive than viruses, but more alive than complex simple prions.
    Viruses are less alive than bacteria, but more alive than complex proteins.
    Bacteria ar

  • lolol So now we know how Brain was created. :)
  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @11:44PM (#55523839)

    Please tell me one of the rats was named Nicodemus.

  • Says Who? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @12:06AM (#55523907)

    Though they're not "alive" in the same sense that you and I are, they grow and are organized into different layers like our brains are. They even react in similar ways to stimuli like psychedelic drugs.

    Who's to say what they experience or feel? That they're not alive? Seems to me they're making them as close to a live brain as possible, so...

  • Jesus H. Christ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nicolas Cage ( 4893913 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @12:06AM (#55523909)
    This is horrifying. How could you go home and sleep at night after working on something like this?

    Growing extra organs in or on animals is already pretty grotesque, but at least that has obvious and practical applications. But this? This is some shit, man...
    • Probably after tucking the rats in and reading them a bedtime story, because all of a sudden they've started complaining when you get ready to leave the lab if you don't.

  • by slothman32 ( 629113 ) * <pjohnjackson@gma ... minus physicist> on Friday November 10, 2017 @12:07AM (#55523913) Homepage Journal

    Any brain can integrate; wake me up when they can find derivatives.

  • they are smart enough. I'm glad they destroy these experiments.

  • Is that you?
  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Friday November 10, 2017 @02:06AM (#55524215)

    "Human Mini-Brains Growing Inside Rat Bodies Are Starting To Integrate"

    Big deal. So they've invented vat-grown lawyers.

    • My nose! It burns! Mt. Dew all over the screen......

      If only I had mod points....But I would be torn between:
      +1 Funny
      +1 Insightful
      I think Insightful wins....even though you coated my screen with Mr Dew...
    • I owned a rat when I was a kid. They only live to be two years old. I was almost 15 before I learned to integrate. If they figured it out in under two years, they are doing pretty good.
  • Human Mini-Brains Growing Inside Rat Bodies Are Starting To Integrate

  • Frankenstein (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Joao Cordeiro ( 3780295 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @03:43AM (#55524449)
    I do love how the author comes up with a lovely name like "mini brains" for something that can be compared to Frankenstein.
  • Apparently the current American president is the first succesful example of implanting a mini-brain in a rat.
  • by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @07:57AM (#55525099)
    The horror movie script just writes itself, doesn't it?
  • by fygment ( 444210 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @08:17AM (#55525193)

    Comforting: one lab paused it's efforts because someone somewhere raised ethical challenges. Excellent as it indicates someone is giving some thought to what is going on.

    Discomforting: these things aren't 'alive' in the same sense as you and I so they can be experimented upon in ways that would be deemed unethical. Chilling that someone somewhere sees this as a loophole.

    One of the most frightening developments to appear in /. in a while.

    • I would not consider not being alive as a loophole, but rather as a valid distinction. There are plenty of experiments involving human tissue. Do you object to all of them, or just some of them?

  • by tommeke100 ( 755660 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @08:47AM (#55525347)
    They are integrating human brains in rats, but we should be scared of AI?
  • I don't think we need to really worry until they start to differentiate. Then they will be on to PDEs, vector analysis, and so on. While people are wringing their hands over Artificial Intelligence, the ratbrains will escape the lab, organize an army of nuclear-surviving cockroaches, and take over the planet. Unless the dolphins achieve spaceflight when nobody's looking.
  • People find this "icky" because we're growing neurons in a glass, but they have no problem with liver cells or muscle cells. Why, exactly?

    A clump of neurons is not sentient, nor is it going to be sentient. Not even if it develops in layers. Without external influence and control, it is going to be basically unstructured. It's just a bunch of cells.

    Maybe, someday, scientists will be able to provide the stimuli necessary to make a clump of neurons into something more. That day is not yet, and these clumps are

    • Because neurons are essential to the process of thinking itself, while liver-cells etc. don't. I'm not saying I personally see an issue here, but I DO understand why (some) people find an ethical/moral issue in it.

      After all, what one (well, you) do here, is subjectively and arbitrarily deciding a certain size to be a moral issue, and when not. Is a 'clump' the defining standard to speak of an ethical issue? What about two clumps? What about 10? 100? 10 million? Can you give objective criteria from what size

  • Stem cells are the problem!
  • And I find it VERY impressive. Those rats never even got past 5th-grade algebra.
  • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @01:27PM (#55527015) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, the title is from the dystopianest of dystopias. I am sure it's much mlless sinister than this.

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