Need a new brain? Why not grow your own?

Well, maybe not quite yet. But work is underway.

In Austria, researchers took both embryonic stem cells (i.e. from human embryos) and adult skin cells, then did some "lab magic" and in about a month the cells grew and self-orgaized into what the researchers termed "brain-like organoids" 3-4mm in size that showed "neural activity".  

Think of it!  A few flakes of skin can become the startings of a human brain. Now that's not to say that these litle bits had consciousness, that's many more steps ahead.

They have survived a year (as of when the article went to publication in the journal Nature,) but have not grown any larger, apparently because at this point there is no blood supply in. (But other research in other labs is focusing on generating bio-artificial  blood vessels.)

This work was reported on in  Britain's New Scientist , BBC News , Washington Post via Reuters , Siongularity Hub  and others .

What about the ethical issues of growing even a tiny  human brain?  The researchers are aware of the issue, and the Austrian team does not want to see larger human brain specimens grown now, as that would be "undesirable."

Gary Marcus, in a New Yorker article, looks at this same research, though taking a much longer look at the implications  of where this kind of work may lead decades or a half-century from now.

 "But we’ll also need to confront immense ethical quandaries. What rights does synthetic brain tissue have? Should a 3-D-printed brain have the right to vote? To an education? To terminate its own life? (Or to not be terminated?) For now, these questions are still just another round of thought experiments. But it’s more likely than ever that such thoughts might some day be held by just another brain in a jar."

Beyond all that, there's still one other big issue: even if we can "grow"  a complete human brain, where is the mind?   That is the biggie we tackle in  my technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH --Playing God with Body, Soul, and Biotech,  . . . though suggesting an approach other than bio-science.

Can brain implants help restore memory?

Restoring memory plays a key role in my scientific technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with Body, Soul and Biotech, Though REMEDY is finished and out in the world, I still have Google search and other similar on the lookout for new developments.  (Who knows? Maybe there will be a sequel sometime. But what would I title it? SON OF REMEDY FOR DEATH?  Nah, guess I'll have to keep looking.)

Anyway, Bloomberg published the article referenced here, "Brain implants hold promise in restoring combat memory loss," which ties in (sort of) with what happens at the fictional Hauenfelder Clinic. There they use a different kind of brain implants for memory restoration.  But who knows? If there's a sequel they may adapt the approach profiled in the Bloomberg article.

Here's the link to that Bloomberg article, by Kathleen Miller:

Bloomberg: Brain implants promise restoring combat memory loss

 The research, mostly funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) initially focuses on helping wounded soldiers with brain injuries, but is expected to be useful to others with memory disorders, such as Alzheimer's, dementia, injury or certain diseases.

A large part involves the surgical mplantation of electric probes in the brain to stimulate memories, particularly "task-based" skills-- like how to drive, how to dress and the like. This rather than --in this study-- recall of abstract memories such as names.  (But I expect work on that kind of memory restoratio isn't far behind.) 

Note, this group of studies does not involve implanting brain cells, but as I've recorded elswhere in this blog, that is being done. Link to other blog posts here on human brain cells implanted into mice, and other related

For much more, check out the   Categories / archives section on the sidebar of this blog, linking you to my past posts on memory, brain implants, tissue engineering, and more