First brain cells grown in lab

Allen L. Barker alb at datafilter.com
Wed Jan 19 00:21:22 EST 2005

Matthew Kirkcaldie wrote:
> 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 apologize for any such implication.  Nonetheless, there is
a real tendency for some researchers to make such assumptions.
It is not necessarily a racist thing either, but can also
be a nationalistic thing or an assumption that the US or some
other western country would always be the first to achieve
such results.  I find a similar sort of arrogance with open
researchers being skeptical about what secret black-budget
researchers could achieve with huge budgets and a suppression
of open research funding in an area (a radar-evading plane is
just not possible).

>> 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."

That is exactly my point.  There is no indication that the cells
were claimed to have carried-over any abilities.

> 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 
> satirical.

Again, that was part of my point.  You assumed a sarcastic point of
view and seemingly did not consider the article worth a serious
and scientific critique.  You did say "presumably," but it was so
that you could set up a straw man to knock down.

>> 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.

The brain is an amazingly adaptive organ.  It is also fundamentally a
self-organizing system, unlike a television.  If the new cells really
are integrated into the brain they could easily aid in re-learning
certain functions.  They may well be far more plastic than the
pre-existing neurons, having been recently grown in a dish.  In any
case, assuming that they do make new connections, all of those
connections are by definition new ones.

> I remain deeply sceptical about the report.

I'm waiting to see, also.

>       Matthew.

Mind Control: TT&P ==> http://www.datafilter.com/mc
Home page: http://www.datafilter.com/alb
Allen Barker

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