back to article Lab grown stem cells emit brain waves like newborns – and boffins build robot worm to slither through heads

Tiny brain cells grown in a petri dish can be induced to emit electrical waves similar to the ones coming from humans, scientists have discovered for the first time. A group of researchers discovered this oddity when they decided to track the growth of single pluripotent stem cells. These types of cells have the potential to …

  1. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Growing Brains in jars

    I think I've seen that film.

    Robot worms ... the possibilities are almost endless and mostly creepy

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Growing Brains in jars

      They aren't brains though. For a start they don't have blood vessels which very much limits the size and hence complexity they can reach. For second they have no sensory apparatus. Read Helen Keller's memoir about how dark her mind was until she was given language. Remember she was deaf, dumb and blind. Those blobs of neurons are that and they also lack touch, smell, taste, proprioception and heat perception and probably also lack a pH receptor or stretch receptors. Remember brains have no pain receptors either.

      Brains without sensory input would be insane, uselessly insane.

      You need to disengage the reptile portion of your brain which the makers of horror flicks play on and engage your cortex.

      I'm a biologist and I find worms fascinating. Real worms of course are much more feature rich than a magnetic guided wire.

      My concern and I suspect of regulators will be the consequences of it getting stuck and not being able to be removed. I suspect it will have to have a tether on its tail to enable a manual withdrawal. However it does look like an interesting development.

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge

        Re: Growing Brains in jars

        Plan A to remove a stuck wire is probably pretty clever.

        Plan B is probably still pretty good.

        Plan C involves an MRI, using the "Ripping off a band-aid" conjecture

      2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: Growing Brains in jars

        I would assume a wire may not help if the "worm" worms it's way around. As pulling the wire tight may straighten it and cut things?

      3. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        Re: Growing Brains in jars

        "My concern and I suspect of regulators will be the consequences of it getting stuck and not being able to be removed. I suspect it will have to have a tether on its tail to enable a manual withdrawal."

        I've had a stroke. No way I'd want a damn wire making another blockage. And, besides, tPA works.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Managing a wire with magnets ?

    That sounds pretty iffy to me. I don't see that we can shape magnetic fields in such a precise way, but I don't know the capabilities of an MRI machine either, so I can be utterly wrong.

    In any case, I do hope they get a lot of practice on donated brains before I need that kind of intervention.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Managing a wire with magnets ?

      New technology dies exist using arrays and some clever math to get just about any arbitrary shape from a magnetic field. So much so they now do a 3d printing and somewhat 3D shaping of the fields.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Managing a wire with magnets ?

        New technology dies...

        As long as it's not the patient.

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Managing a wire with magnets ?

      It's magnetized lengthwise and you only need to control the tip. It should be trivial to steer as long as the turns aren't too sharp. The lab tech seems to be doing it fine just by holding a magnet.

      They might want to give it a slight spiral shape so they can help drive it forwards and backwards with a spin. I imagine it would get stuck very easily in squishy blood vessels that deform and kink under pressure.

  3. deive

    Doesn't jelly also appear like a brain to an EEG?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Joke

      Doesn't jelly also appear like a brain to an EEG?

      Fake News!

      You can't fool us that easily Donal... ooh is your brain Orange flavor?

  4. mix
    Joke

    Fascinating

    Love the technology and science but the peurile nature of my mind immediately leapt on this: "The stem cells grown in a lab at the University of California, San Diego, (UCSD) were encouraged to become cerebral cortex cells."

    Visions of scientists going, "Oh please be a brain cell, those other cells are boring.".

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Fascinating

      "Ommm...

      Ohpleasebeabraincellthoseothercellsareboring

      Ommm...

      Ohpleasebeabraincellthoseothercellsareboring

      Ommm...

      Ohpleasebeabraincellthoseothercellsareboring

      Ommm...

      Ohpleasebeabraincellthoseothercellsareboring"

      and so on, until, one day...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Careful now

    If you send that to Mississippi, or some other Right Wing Nutjob Stronghold, they'll track down the donor of the cells and force them to carry it to term.

    Because.... Actually I don't know why. Maybe I can ask the audience, or call my lifeline?

    1. Sherrie Ludwig

      Re: Careful now

      If you send that to Mississippi, or some other Right Wing Nutjob Stronghold, they'll track down the donor of the cells and force them to carry it to term.

      Because.... Actually I don't know why. Maybe I can ask the audience, or call my lifeline?

      Please, no. A heartless bit of brain cells will become another RWNJ. The US has enough of them, thanks.

    2. RM Myers

      Re: Careful now

      This was done using " induced pluripotent stem cells ", which are adult cells which are induced to change back into a pluripotent state. I'm not aware of anyone protesting there use.

  6. swm Bronze badge

    This research is fascinating. NMR (now called MRI because of the public's fear of the word "nuclear") was a lab curiosity but now it is a great imaging tool. It is amazing how many thin tube shaped things they are inserting in the body today.

  7. Dave Rickmers

    Rick Sanchez Effect

    If something goes horribly wrong we can always teleport into another of an infinite number of universes. Or go back in time. Pickle Rick!

  8. Crisp Silver badge

    Brain worms

    Will they help me learn to play the holophone though?

  9. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

    fluroscopy?!?

    "“Existing platforms could apply magnetic field and do the fluoroscopy procedure at the same time to the patient..."

    So, trading a stroke for a high probability of brain tumors? Before you downvote me, please review the medical definition of fluoroscopy to note that it is, in fact, "a type of medical imaging that shows a continuous X-ray image on a monitor, much like an X-ray movie. During a fluoroscopy procedure, an X-ray beam is passed through the body. The image is transmitted to a monitor so the movement of a body part or of an instrument or contrast agent (“X-ray dye”) through the body can be seen in detail." (emphasis added).

    Strokes are not always fatal, but definitely debilitating to varying degrees. On the other hand Glioblastoma is, for all intents and purposes, a death sentence. As someone with immediate familial experience, I can tell you glioblastoma is a particularly cruel and nasty way to die... That being said, this does sound like a promising treatment, after much refinement.

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