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First brain cells grown in lab

Matthew Kirkcaldie m.kirkcaldie at removethis.unsw.edu.au
Tue Jan 18 22:58:09 EST 2005

In article <B8kHd.10266$pZ4.9243 at newsread1.news.pas.earthlink.net>,
 "Allen L. Barker" <alb at datafilter.com> wrote:

> Matthew Kirkcaldie wrote:
> > In article <AabHd.9887$pZ4.9609 at newsread1.news.pas.earthlink.net>,
> >  "Allen L. Barker" <alb at datafilter.com> wrote:
> > 
> > 
> >>SCIENTISTS have successfully grown human brain cells in the
> >>laboratory for the first time and used them to repair the
> >>damaged brains of head-injury victims.
> > 
> > 
> > Yessss ... from a sample obtained from a CHOPSTICK that had PUSHED 
> > THROUGH SOMEONE'S EYE.  They then supposedly proliferated in the 
> > patient's brain (unlike any other neuron in the cortex) and then, in a 
> > remarkable feat, restored abilities lost due to an injury.  Presumably 
> > they brought those abilities with them from the other patient, or knew 
> > how to restore the missing functions in the recipient.
> > 
> > Forgive me if I remain a little sceptical.
> I'm waiting to see myself, but it is an interesting report.  Don't
> be too arrogant and think that it couldn't have been done by a
> Chinese researcher.

Allen, where did I even remotely indicate that I was sceptical because 
the researcher was Chinese?  I find the implication very offensive. 

>  I didn't see any indication that any abilities
> were claimed to have been transferred; that is a misrepresentation
> of what was reported.

"... subsequent brain scans showed the cells had grown further and 
integrated with the patients surviving brain cells to help them recover 
abilities lost through the injury."

My remarks were satirical in nature, and were intended to highlight how 
implausible it is that a transplanted, undifferentiated neuron would 
somehow take up a place in tissue which had been shaped by a lifetime of 
plasticity, and somehow help restore function.  If you re-read what I 
wrote, the sentence begins with "presumably", indicating that it was NOT 
something stated in the article, and that it was also sceptical or 

>  The chopstick incident was only reported to
> have given the researcher his inspiration. 

"When the stick was removed it was covered in brain material, which Zhu 
was able to grow in a culture medium."  True, it doesn't indicate that 
it was used for the experiment itself - as a matter of fact the 
misinterpretation stems from a derivative report which appeared in The 
Australian on Monday, which is where I read it first, and which reported 
the chopstick incident as the source of the transplanted material.  You 
weren't to know that, and I apologise for spreading further.

> Really, as a scientist you should be more precise.

How about you READ what I ACTUALLY wrote before chipping me about 
precision or racism?

>  My interpretation is that the new
> cells were recruited into the brain of the recipient and helped to
> restore some lost functions.

How would you expect that to happen?  To me it's analogous to tipping 
components into a broken television and expecting it to work again. The 
CNS is a hostile environment for neuronal proliferation and there is no 
indication that this issue was even addressed.

I remain deeply sceptical about the report.


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