Feeds

Israeli boffins bring life to human neuron culture

Plan to install bottled brains in 'cyborg machines'

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Israeli boffins may be on the road to building artificial, living human brains which can function without a body to support them. Honest.

According to an article in yesterday's Scientific American, Tel Aviv university researchers led by biophysicist Eshel ben-Jacob have manipulated cultured human brain cells so as to "imprint persisting multiple memories" on them.

The research was revealed in a paper published last month by the American Physical Society, titled "Towards [a] Neuro-memory-chip: Imprinting multiple memories in cultured neural networks" (abstract here).

Ben-Jacob and his fellow boffins apparently mounted their artificially-cultured brain tissue on "a polymer panel studded with electrodes." (Won't be long before they start using full-size brains in jars of bubbling transparent fluid, we reckon.) The scientists then injected the hapless culture with "picrotoxin, a cocktail of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)."

Apparently, "the cells on the electrode array came from the cortex, the outermost layer of the brain known for its role in memory formation," though it wasn't clear whose cortex or how they got the slime out of the donor's head.

Just for information, ben-Jacob's assistant is apparently called Itay Baruchi - not Igor.

The injection of picrotoxic gamma acid enabled the neurons, essentially, to start behaving persistently in an organised way - or to put it another way, BROUGHT A DEAD BRAIN TO LIFE.

Fortunately, the scientists had not installed their vat-grown cortex in a huge, powerful body assembled from corpse parts and thus it was unable to do anything. But there are hints that they plan in future to install artificial brains-in-jars in machinery of various kinds.

Scientific American reckons the synthetic brain tech "could be paired with computer hardware to create cyborglike machines." The science-magazine hacks played down the dangers, suggesting that the results might be useful for "such tasks as detecting dangerous toxins in the air, allowing the blind to see or helping someone who is paralyzed regain some if not all muscle use."

El Reg takes a more pessimistic view. The current killer-robot takeover in the US military is almost bound to draw in the Israeli bottled-brain tech, we submit, especially as US war-boffins are already brewing an unholy marriage of living flesh and machinery - albeit only a tiny one.

It can be only a matter of time until artificial brains in armoured plexiglass tanks - probably, for some obscure reason, harvested from condemned homicidal maniacs - are placed in control of droid gunships, "Reaper" aerial hunter-killers or crawling pint-sized cyber-assassins. There are other heavily-armed death machines entering Israeli service just now, as it happens.

We'll just have to hope that the good citizens of Tel Aviv come to their senses and get down to the university with pitchforks and flaming torches.

More from Scientific American here

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.