Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Medicine Hardware Science

Harvard Creates Cyborg Tissues 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-wired dept.
MrSeb writes "Bioengineers at Harvard University have created the first examples of cyborg tissue: Neurons, heart cells, muscle, and blood vessels that are interwoven by nanowires and transistors. These cyborg tissues are half living cells, half electronics. As far as the cells are concerned, they're just normal cells that behave normally — but the electronic side actually acts as a sensor network, allowing a computer to interface directly with the cells. In the case of cyborg heart tissue, the researchers have already used the embedded nanowires to measure the contractions (heart rate) of the cells. So far, the researchers have only used the nanoelectric scaffolds to read data from the cells — but according to lead researcher Charles Lieber, the next step is to find a way of talking to the individual cells, to 'wire up tissue and communicate with it in the same way a biological system does.' Suffice it to say, if you can use a digital computer to read and write data to your body's cells, there are some awesome applications."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Harvard Creates Cyborg Tissues

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "I never asked for this."

    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Bravery is not a function of firepower."

      Not only is JC more advanced but he has better lines too.
  • Why don't they... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by multiben (1916126) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:23PM (#41173953)
    ... just build cyborgs which don't need to blow their nose?
  • that part where Data had like 4 square inches of skin grafted on to him, and it was the greatest thing that ever happened to him

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Wasn't there a TNG episode where Q made him into an actual human being? That might be a little better though the borg queen exhaling her hot sensual breath over the nascent tissue might tip the scales!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        No. Riker, with the power of Q, offered to transform Data into a human but Data refused. In another episode, Data becomes Q's only friend when the latter is stripped of his powers. When Q got his powers back, he offered a gift to Data, which Data assumed meant turning him into a human but instead Q made Data laugh.
  • DRM. (Score:5, Funny)

    by slackware 3.6 (2524328) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:33PM (#41174011)
    Your heart possibly being owned by a corporation. Or your willy wang and the police busting down your door for unauthorised jerking methods.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your heart possibly being owned by a corporation. Or your willy wang and the police busting down your door for unauthorised jerking methods.

      That's exactly the kind of bullshit that would make any advanced alien species decide that we're not worth contacting. But it's standard bullshit. It's been going on for a long time.

      The full implications are worse than that. We are headed towards technological singularity. While I would like to believe this will usher in a new era of prosperity and achievement, consider the kind of sociopathic fevered egos who always wind up running things. Now imagine them even more "effective" (at doing what they

      • by oakgrove (845019)

        The full implications are worse than that. We are headed towards technological singularity. While I would like to believe this will usher in a new era of prosperity and achievement, consider the kind of sociopathic fevered egos who always wind up running things. Now imagine them even more "effective" (at doing what they have always done) than ever.

        I'm a bit more optimistic than this but should the singularity occur you might as well not worry about the details of what comes after as by definition it's unpredictable. As far as companies DRMing artificial organs we probably have about as much to worry about that as we do all the other barn doors they've slammed shut after the horse got free. Certainly puts a new spin on rooting and jailbreaking!

        • Re:DRM. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Freaky Spook (811861) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @11:34PM (#41175041)

          I'm a bit more optimistic than this but should the singularity occur you might as well not worry about the details of what comes after as by definition it's unpredictable.

          I'm not at all, looking at just the USA and what companies like Monsanto, GSK and Kaiser Permanente have been able to get away with and also get legislated to protect their interests at the expense of everyone else, I'm not optimistic at all.

          • Re:DRM. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by BlueStrat (756137) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @12:47AM (#41175399)

            I'm a bit more optimistic than this but should the singularity occur you might as well not worry about the details of what comes after as by definition it's unpredictable.

            I'm not at all, looking at just the USA and what companies like Monsanto, GSK and Kaiser Permanente have been able to get away with and also get legislated to protect their interests at the expense of everyone else, I'm not optimistic at all.

            If we accept that all human beings have weaknesses, fears, failings, and that no individual or finite group is impervious to corruption and/or compromise/influence/pressure, then logic says that the only realistic option to avoid most of the worst of corporate and other influence/corruption/compromise of the government is to make the central government as small and weak as practical, and keep as much of the local day-to-day governance as local and answerable to the people as possible.

            Decentralization, baby! Like the way the internet was intended to work, damage/corruption is routed around until repairs are effected.

            That way the Monsantos, GSKs, and Kaiser Permanentes of the world won't be able to buy influence over the entire nation in one spot from a relatively-small number of the very very powerful in the Federal government like a "supermarket of sleaze", but would have to influence/corrupt/bribe many, many city/county/state governments and officials/legislative bodies across the country and keep all those illegal acts from becoming widely known and drawing prosecution. A much more expensive, time-consuming, and risky proposition. It would thus help reduce the risks of corruption of the singularity from those sources and help tilt the scales a fraction more towards a more benign outcome.

            Look, we've all generally agreed and acknowledged that politicians are all ambitious, greedy, power-hungry sleazebags that can and will, given the chance, bring that painting of a boot crushing a human face forever to reality. And yes, that includes "your guy", too.

            Given that, wouldn't it be wise to keep the ones with the most power and ability to control you and your life within easy arm's-reach where you can nip their overreaches and encroachments on your wealth, security, free speech, and freedom in the bud? Keep in mind also that it's much harder for them to go astray if they've got to face the people they're governing across their own backyard fences, their kids go to the same school, etc etc.

            As a side-benefit, it would also tend to greatly reduce the power and influence of the two major national political parties and severely reduce the ability of a relatively few national party leaders to dictate to the rest. It's possible it could even allow the emergence of a third party or even more.

            It also coincidentally assures some variety in the style, flavor, and feel of governance from place to place across the nation and thus there is a better chance one can find a place to live with governance that accommodates one's religious, cultural, and political beliefs to a sufficient degree.

            This, I believe, would also greatly increase the chances for a more-positive outcome from the singularity by assuring a variety of views, cultures, and beliefs, thus avoiding a monoculture of tyranny.

            Strat

            • Re:DRM. (Score:4, Insightful)

              by CommieLib (468883) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @10:01AM (#41177839) Homepage
              No, no, you don't understand - THIS TIME we'll get it right. The people involved are so good and so pure, they'll make the right choices, and resist the pull of corruption. You just don't understand how smart these new people are - the New York Times talks about them everyday. These are the best and brightest, the very smartest of society - isn't it better for them to make the choices for us?

              You don't understand - human beings are corruptible and evil, and so we need to make government powerful so that it can be better. What will the government be composed of? Well, human beings, of course. Er, well, these human beings are less corruptible, I think. And look at these wonderful corporations who are supporting our rise to power - they must surely be led by disinterested saints committed to social justice.

              You see, we're not committed to ideology - we're pure pragmatists, we only care about what works. Well, yes, I suppose that ideology does define what goals are worth working towards and which ones aren't, and I definitely have preferences in that area...well, yes, I suppose that I have premises that I operate from in choosing methods that constitute ideology...but ideology is bad! I mean, YOUR ideology is bad! Mine is progress. Towards what? Well...the future! Forward! By what methods, and to what ends? Eh, those are details we'll figure out later...what matters now is that we get unlimited power to reshape society according to our beautiful vision.

              What? I don't care about the history and track record of these ideas! I'm not hide-bound and shackled by tradition like you! The performance of these methods in the past has nothing to do with what's going to happen when we get power! </sarcasm>

              . Individual liberty may be imperfect, but ultimately it's the only deal worth considering.
            • by Anonymous Coward

              I agree with you to some extent - I am in favor of gov't being always as local as possible - but any large organization can be dangerous, not just government. Make government weaker than the corporations, and the corporations will effectively become the government. My problem with the modern libertarian movement is that they seem willfully naive to the dangers of anything but government, as if gov't created all problems, rather than having been invented to address many of them.

              • by BlueStrat (756137)

                Make government weaker than the corporations, and the corporations will effectively become the government.

                Government is *always* stronger than private corporations, unless corporations somehow surprise the world like in a Bond movie and have a "secret army" or some nonsense.

                Government controls the courts and the police/FBI. The DoJ/justice system. They pass the laws. They have the US military, all branches. The TLAs. Prisons.

                Drones.

                Cruise missiles.

                The bomb.

                They have the monopoly on the use of force.

                Now, please tell me how the corporations are going to "force" the government to do ANYthing!?

                It's precisely the

        • Have you seen "Repo Men"? The movie is based on a future where companies rent artificial hearts, and if someone has too many payments overdue, it's no more heart for him/her.

          Sadly, I can see us moving toward a future as horrible and ultracapitalistic as that; where collecting rent for a heart weighs more than a human life.

      • by cplusplus (782679)

        The full implications are worse than that. We are headed towards technological singularity. While I would like to believe this will usher in a new era of prosperity and achievement, consider the kind of sociopathic fevered egos who always wind up running things. Now imagine them even more "effective" (at doing what they have always done) than ever.

        Open source it or pirate it. You're probably right... in all likelihood, corporations will tie this tech down and bleed the masses for every last cent for access. Pirates and hackers will be the saviors of humanity after the singularity, and they're always one step ahead.

    • Re:DRM. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by arthurh3535 (447288) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @09:00PM (#41174221)

      Your heart possibly being owned by a corporation. Or your willy wang and the police busting down your door for unauthorised jerking methods.

      You mean http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repo!_The_Genetic_Opera [wikipedia.org] ?

    • Or your willy wang and the police busting down your door for unauthorised jerking methods.

      I think I would take the risk if my down-under-thunder could honestly be used to bust down doors...

  • Grown. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MnemonicMan (2596371) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:36PM (#41174045)
    The issue for all of us who already exist today is that the tissue grows around the mesh. Certainly in the future new organisms can be grown and integrated at the same time to become cybernetic life forms. However, for all of us who are already grown getting a mesh inside of our tissues presents a whole other engineering problem.
    • Re:Grown. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dark_requiem (806308) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:39PM (#41174067)
      Not really, use your own stem cells to grow the tissue, grow a new heart/arm/etc., and transplant it. Transplant tech has advanced enormously in recent years.
      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        Not really, use your own stem cells to grow the tissue, grow a new heart/arm/etc., and transplant it. Transplant tech has advanced enormously in recent years.

        I think simply growing a full heart/arm out of your own stem cells would be the more impressive accomplishment there, actually. It'd almost certainly have a greater impact. Making it a cyborg part and transplanting it are pretty easy by comparison.

      • Not really, use your own stem cells to grow the tissue, grow a new heart/arm/etc., and transplant it. Transplant tech has advanced enormously in recent years.

        Which is the "other engineering problem." ;)

      • by Kyont (145761)

        Aha, this finally puts to rest that nagging question "Why can't God heal amputees?" The answer, of course, is that she couldn't get into Harvard.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    On the other, I'm thinking "kill switch"

  • ...they're trying to take over that iPod!
  • Suffice it to say, if you can use a digital computer to read and write data to your body's cells, there are some awesome applications.

    Turn the human body into a biological Pirate Bay.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:44PM (#41174111)

    Suffice it to say, if you can use a digital computer to read and write data to your body's cells, there are some awesome applications."

    Yes. The RIAA can now ask for someone to be disassembled to search for pirated software, and the government in order to check for terrorist cellular data. Reassembly of course, will be your problem, not theirs.

  • You will be assimilated, resistance is futile!
  • by harlequinn (909271) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @09:12PM (#41174305)

    Cool.

    I wonder what the infection rate along the interfaces is?

    • Cu, Copper (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It has antimicrobial properties. In essence this could help fend off disease just by being there.

      It is rather interesting and is worth the time to check it out. [wikipedia.org]

  • Is it too much to ask to at least let me finish my new video game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution before you start making the real crap in a lab? geesh.
  • With a little Transglutaminase [youtube.com] and MSG added to the recipe, there could be a lucrative market for obsolete or misbehaving cyborgs, perhaps in places like Papua New Guinea [wikipedia.org], or certainly in Washington, D.C.
  • the next step is to find a way of talking to the individual cells, to 'wire up tissue and communicate with it in the same way a biological system does.'

    I wonder if these nanowires can be combined the patch clamp [slashdot.org] to solve this problem?

    • They are probably already doing this. Kit Parker (Harvard rat heart muscle jellyfish) just gave a talk at my work today and showed his badass dual-patch clamp data among other glorious feats in bioengineering.

      These are the necessary steps. To build a house, you need a hammer. To build a hammer, you need ore, wood, sharp stones, and a powerful mind.

  • Awesome! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lotana (842533) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @09:59PM (#41174565)

    Ignoring all the ./'s typical cynicism: This is quite an exciting development.

    If the artificial components can be kept functioning without affecting the living tissue, we will be able to help people with virtually any physical disability! A few weeks ago there was a stoly how brain signals were decoded when it came to sight, so combine that with this breakthrough we can even have people controlling the devices with their mind!

    Biotech is making great strides in progress. This is a very exciting time to be alive.

    • Biotech is, in my opinion, at the 8086 level of computing tech. Once the bigger kinks start to get worked out, development will show its exponential growth. $1000 genome in a day is 2012/2013 technology. The steps are compounding.... invest now! Or maybe wait a little longer...

      If I were a betting man, ViaCyte is the invesment for today. They are leading the way and will be saving Americans from poor diets/lifestyles in under a decade.

    • by sabbede (2678435)
      Combine this with the robot doing neural patch clamping and maybe I can finally get past being forced to waste time composing comments via my fingers like a damn hobo.
  • by Greyfox (87712)
    Childhood memories or another 12 petabytes of live goat porn? Oh, like I even have to ask!
  • But in real people, cells can repair themselves or be replaced. Wires and transistors, not so much.
    • Cells can only repair themselves up to a certain point. Transistors can be replaced if designed properly. It's just a matter of finding the right balance.

      • If you cut a leg off a starfish, it will grow back completely. Scar tissue is a recent development in animal evolution.
  • Well, there are virus scanners and then there are VIRUS scanners.

  • This tech is worrisome, and awesome.
    It's awesome because it will help with all sorts of diseases, It's worrisome because it can be hacked.

    In the future viruses will be more serious.
    Imagine getting an email stating that your heart now has a new virus, please send $1000 to a numbered account or you will have a heart attack. And of course when you open the email, your heart starts pumping faster.... was it because of the virus or the possible virus.

PLUG IT IN!!!

Working...