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How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

Posted March 09, 2013 8:40 PM

From ExtremeTech:

It is easy to dismiss much of the continual outpouring of research that claims to make creatures smarter by changing a few genes around, or even giving them human genes. If you try enough different kinds of tests, you can probably find a few where the altered animals show some arbitrarily significant difference in performance, and then report it as progress. While that is a cynical view, it reflects the realities often observed in our somewhat stagnant system of grant-funded research. Today, a team of neuroscientists claim to have boosted the learning rate and memory of mice by grafting fetal human brain cells onto their brains. This particular hack has cast the net a little further, and gives us a unique insight into how brains work, and how we might soon be able to build superbrains.

When a human brain is compared to a smaller mammalian brain, some features, like the thickness of the cortex, remain relatively constant. Others, like the range and density of connections per cell do not. For example, in evolving larger brains, a neuron that suddenly needs to supply connections to other neurons up to 10cm away typically responds by becoming more massive, and retaining more protein manufacturing compartments.

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#1

Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/09/2013 11:25 PM

That ain't right....

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#2

Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/10/2013 5:29 AM

'....If you try enough different kinds of tests, you can probably find a few where the altered animals show some arbitrarily significant difference in performance, and then report it as progress. While that is a cynical view, it reflects the realities often observed in our somewhat stagnant system of grant-funded research....'

.

If you try enough different sentence arrangements with various synonyms, you can probably find a few where the arbitrary prose performance might feign the significance of a worthwhile report as it progresses . While that is an exacting clinical view reflecting the realities of the occasional auto-sychophantic interpretive stabs at journalism, there is some simplistic satisfaction in responding with equally glib and foolish rewordings.

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#3

Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/10/2013 8:02 AM

Today, a team of neuroscientists claim to have boosted the learning rate and memory of mice by grafting fetal human brain cells onto their brains.

Ordinarily I don't get too concerned about medical experimentation. The rare brain disorder that killed my wife will likely require some intense research using stem cells before a cure for it is found. But I am a bit troubled by the phrase 'fetal human brain cells'. Where do researches get human fetal brain cells? From human fetuses? Or is there another meaning of 'fetal'?

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#4
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Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/10/2013 11:26 AM

I believe most of the fetuses were ones created in fertility clinics that ended up not being needed/used for for the couple to become pregnant. I think the ones used are the ones that would be otherwise destroyed.

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#5
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Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/10/2013 11:44 AM

Usbport, I am very, very sorry to hear about your loss.

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#6
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Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/10/2013 2:02 PM

Bravo, perambulation through the ambiguousness of misconstrued daliance...

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Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/10/2013 2:10 PM

My condolences on your loss....

"Goldman isn't worried that he is somehow making mice with human brains. "We are not humanizing the mice," he says. "We were affecting the brain activity with human glial cells ... These are still mouse brains, bottom line." Transplanting neurons might be a different matter, he said.

There are many animals that carry human cells -- from the millions of lab mice injected with human tumor cells to study cancer, to sheep engineered to produce human liver cells. But the experiment raises a red flg, says bioethicist Arthur Caplan of New York University medical center.

"This experiment is the ethical equivalent of Superstorm Sandy," Caplan says. "It brings together a controversial source of stem cells -- obtained from aborted fetuses to create human-animal chimeras which frighten many members of the public and Congress. The utility of the work for understanding diseases and the development of therapies for them is enormous but it is vitally important that an agreed upon, transparent and enforced set of rules and review processes be instituted to govern further research using stem cells from humans in animal brains or vice versa."

These new mice might be used to study ways to treat a range of human diseases. The technique of transplanting progenitor cells into newborns might hold special promise in treating genetic diseases such as Niemann-Pick or Tay-Sachs disease, Goldman says."

http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/07/17217086-mice-get-human-brain-cells-and-get-smarter-too?lite

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#8
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Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/10/2013 4:14 PM

"to create human-animal chimeras which frighten many members of the public and Congress. "

They're only afraid because they are aware that they are having a hard time outsmarting mice with normal intelligence levels as is.

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#9
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Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/10/2013 4:46 PM

Good find.

.

From an ethical stand point, does anyone here feel it markedly different for researchers to use fetal tissue from aborted fetuses compared to using fetal tissue from unused embryos from fertility clinics that would otherwise be destroyed?

.

This is a sincere question. I think it would be wrong to restrict use of tissue derived from one process over the other. I certainly don't think it is an incentive for anyone to have an abortion.

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#10
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Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/10/2013 5:35 PM

I'm not particularly religious, so the issue to me is just the ethics of human experimentation. I have no idea where a line would be drawn, yet I think there needs to be a line somewhere. I don't now if embryonic cells = fetal cells, or not, or whether that even matters. It's a large issue with a lot of caveats and qualifiers and I don't want to get into that discussion here, especially since I admittedly know little about it.

For those sending condolences - thanks. It's been just over a year now since my wife passed away, and I still miss her. But I know I can't dwell in the past. I am looking toward the future and feel like my life is on a fairly even keel these days.

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#11
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Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/10/2013 8:49 PM

Well I don't see anything wrong with allowing those humans that didn't make it for one reason or another, to contribute to the knowledge and health and well being of those that are suffering....I would draw the line at growing headless human bodies in the lab for replacement organs....People donate their bodies to science and research all the time now, it's the last personal contribution you can make to society....If and when it becomes a market driver and contributory to some perversion of the human spirit, then we can deal with it in an intelligent effective manner....but I don't see this occurring any time soon, if ever....

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#12
In reply to #1

Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/10/2013 9:52 PM

What is next the island of Dr moreau

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#13
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Re: How to Make Animals Smarter: Just Add Human Brain Cells

03/11/2013 1:50 PM

They look like a cross between the people you find at Walmart around 2 am and the people who ride around on public transportation all day but have no place to go.

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