A cloud of nanoparticles washes through a field. Tiny sensors gather data on variants in air current, moisture and temperature. The pH balance of the water and the soil is constantly monitored and the growth rate, health and sustainability of the crop is continually assessed. The dust of nanoparticles—some may call it smart dust—can detect invaders in the field, be it a disease infecting the crop, small animals or humans and dispatch another cloud of dust to combat the threat.
Sleeping in the lateral, or side position, as compared to sleeping on one’s back or stomach, may more effectively remove brain waste, and could reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, according to researchers at Stony Brook University.
Stony Brook University researchers discovered this in experiments with rodents by using dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to image the brain’s glymphatic pathway, a complex system that clears wastes and other harmful chemical solutes from the brain. They also used kinetic modeling to quantify the CSF-ISF exchange rates in anesthetized rodents’ brains in lateral, prone, and supine positions.
Colleagues at the University of Rochester used fluorescence microscopy and radioactive tracers to validate the MRI data and to assess the influence of body posture on the clearance of amyloid from the brains.
Their finding is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Most popular position in humans and animals
“It is interesting that the lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals —even in the wild — and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake,” says Maiken Nedergaard, PhD, a co-author at the University of Rochester.
“The study therefore adds further support to the concept that sleep subserves a distinct biological function of sleep and that is to ‘clean up’ the mess that accumulates while we are awake. Many types of dementia are linked to sleep disturbances, including difficulties in falling asleep. It is increasing acknowledged that these sleep disturbances may accelerate memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease.”
“ Last year Tony Perry made mice that would have been brown-furred grow up white instead. That Perry, a molecular embryologist at the University of Bath, tweaked their coat colour isn’t new – scientists have been making so-called knock-out mice, in which certain genes are disabled, since the technique was invented in 1989. It is a long and cumbersome procedure that involves combining pieces of DNA in embryonic stem cells and mouse breeding. But Perry, who published his study in December, didn’t use this method. Instead he used a new genome-editing technology that has been taking the scientific world by storm since it was first developed from the bacterial immune system in 2012, and shown to work in human cells in 2013. The powerful tool, known as Crispr, allows the precise and easy manipulation of the DNA in the nucleus of any cell. Make the manipulations in sperm, egg or a one-cell embryo, which is just about to start replicating its DNA, and they can become permanently sealed in the so-called germ line, to be inherited by future generations. Using the procedure on the germ line, Perry inactivated a key gene for mouse coat colour. But Perry’s work added a unique flourish. He did the editing not in a one-cell mouse embryo – which is how most animal germ-line editing by Crispr has been done to date – but earlier, during the process of fertilisation, by injecting the Crispr components and the mouse sperm into the mouse egg at the same time. It is the same technique – intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) – widely used in IVF. And it worked. “This or analogous approaches may one day enable human genome targeting or editing during very early development,” notes the paper published in the journal Scientific Reports. If human germ-line editing were ever to be used clinically, incorporating Crispr into the ICSI phase of IVF is how it might be.”
“ In his article, “What is the Difference between Posthumanism and Transhumanism?”, Kevin LaGrandeur sets out to clarify the meaning of the terms “posthuman”, “transhuman” and “posthumanism”.”
Via Jean-Philippe BOCQUENET, arslog
“ An artificially intelligent algorithm told me I’d enjoy both these things. I’d like the restaurant, the machine told me, because I prefer Mexican food and wine bars “with a casual atmosphere,” and the movie because “drama movies are in my digital DNA.” Besides, the title shows up around the web next to Boyhood, another film I like. Nara Logics, the company behind this algorithm, is the brainchild (pun intended) of its CTO and cofounder, Nathan Wilson, a former research scientist at MIT who holds a doctorate in brain and cognitive science. Wilson spent his academic career and early professional life immersed in studying neural networks—software that mimics how a human mind thinks and makes connections. Nara Logics’ brain-like platform, under development for the past five years, is the product of all that thinking..”
“Rich Lee wants to give you a superhuman penis. Have you ever wanted to upgrade your body? Make improvements to all those physical limitations? Build a better version of yourself? How about augmenting your sex life?”
The world’s first full head transplant could take place as soon as 2017 if the controversial plans by Italian neuroscientist Dr Sergio Canavero come to pass. Wheelchair-bound Valery Spiridonov, who has the muscle-wasting Werdnig Hoffman disease, has volunteered to have his head transplanted onto a healthy body in a day-long operation.
The proposed surgery is highly controversial and its feasibility has been questioned by experts. But Dr Canavero’s plans also raise complex philosophical and ethical issues. A natural question is whether a living person with Spridinov’s head and someone else’s body would be the same person as Spridinov. In interviews, Spridinov has made it clear that he sees the proposed procedure as a way for him to live on with a new and healthy body. A different perspective would be that Spridinov is a head-donor rather than the recipient of a new body. He is donating his head to someone else who will live the rest of his life with Spridinov’s head but won’t be the same person as Spridinov. On this account, Spridinov is signing his own death warrant by volunteering for the surgery.
“ When Elizabeth Wright smacks her right leg on a table, she says “ow.” That’s only interesting if you know one more thing: that her right leg is made out of carbon fiber and metal. It’s also part of her. “It is my right leg, just as my left leg is my left leg, and just as your right leg is your right leg.” Wright was born with something called congenital limb deficiency—neither her right arm or right leg grew to their full length in the womb. At 2 years old, she was fitted with a prosthetic leg, something she describes as “a revelation.” Around the time she was 6 years old the doctors decided it was time for her to try a prosthetic arm. That didn’t go as well. “This was in the 80s,” Wright says, “before the fancy hands you can use to pick up eggs and not break them. The arm that I got it was purely for aesthetic reasons, it just hung there like some kind of weird dead arm, and I couldn’t do anything with it. I could actually do less. So I think it lasted two or three days and then it got relegated to the cupboard. I refused to wear it.” And it stayed there. Today, Wright still uses a prosthetic leg, one that is wholly hers, entirely a part of her identity, and she still rejects the use of a prosthetic arm. She says she’s learned how to do things without it.”
“ Researchers have mimicked the way the human brain processes information with the development of an electronic long-term memory cell, which mirrors the brain’s ability to simultaneously process and store multiple strands of information. The development brings them closer to imitating key electronic aspects of the human brain — a vital step toward creating a bionic brain and unlocking treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.”
“ Biomedical engineering company Össur has announced the successful development of a thought controlled bionic prosthetic leg. The new technology uses implanted sensors sending wireless signals to the artificial limb's built-in computer, enabling subconscious, real-time control and faster, more natural responses and movements. Prosthetics controlled by muscle impulses have been around since the late 1960s, but the technology has severe limitations. It works by laying sensors on the skin of the vestigial limb, which picks up electrical impulses that control, for example, an artificial arm. The trouble is, these sensors pick up electric impulses from more than one muscle. This degrades performance, requires a lot of practice to operate properly, and makes the prosthesis slow, Imprecise, and frustrating to use. One answer to this is to use more precise sensor arrangements that make the limb, for all practical purposes, mind-controlled. The method is already used with great success on upper limbs and even artificial hands, but, paradoxically, it's been less successful with lower limbs.”
A bio-inspired prototype “soft robot” material with greater dexterity and mobility than conventional hard robots has been created by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering.
“In biology, directed movement involves some form of shape changes, such as the expansion and contraction of muscles,” said Anna C. Balazs, PhD, the Swanson School’s Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. “So we asked whether we could mimic these basic interconnected functions in a synthetic system so that it could simultaneously change its shape and move.”
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