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Nanotech and the Blind 138

Posted by Zonk
from the waiting-for-my-HUD dept.
tomsastroblog writes "In a BBC report scientists injected blind hamsters with a solution containing nanoparticles. The result? Nerves re-grew and sight returned. The researchers injected the blind hamsters with a solution of synthetically made peptides; within 24 hours the brain started to heal itself. The peptides were later broken down by the body into a harmless substance and was excreted three to four weeks later. From the article: 'We are looking at this as a step process. If this can be used while operating on humans to mitigate damage during neurosurgery, that would be the first step,'"
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Nanotech and the Blind

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  • iPod NanoBots (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ExE122 (954104) * on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @10:49AM (#14916079) Homepage Journal

    After injecting the hamsters with a solution containing nanoparticles, the nerves re-grew and sight returned

    This is pretty advanced. So why did Jordy have to wear that stupid visor?

    In order to try to restore quality of life to those individuals you can try to reconnect some disconnected parts to try to give some functionality

    I guess John Bobbit could've used this as well



    On a serious note though, this seems really amazing. It's basically neuro-knitting a damaged brain back in place.

    I wonder if this can somehow treat brain defects due to developmental problems. Disorders such as Schitzophrenia [schizophrenia.com] can be treated with a frontol lobotomy (although this is only done in extreme circumstances) where they disconnect nerves the front part of the brain. I wonder if they can use this technology to reconnect it in a way that will act as a treatment (sort of "rewiring").

    They will no doubt look to see if it can heal the lesions from myelin deteriation caused by diseases like Multiple Sclerosis [nmss.org]. I think the fact that brain tissue regenerated in adult hamsters that weren't supposed to grow new brain tissue gives some promise to that. I know that Parkinson's disease also affects the nervous system, but I believe its caused by some kind of cellular failure. Nevertheless, this looks like some very promising research!

    --
    "Man Bits Dog
    Then Bites Self"
    • Re:iPod NanoBots (Score:5, Informative)

      by Xiroth (917768) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:12AM (#14916326)
      I think the fact that brain tissue regenerated in adult hamsters that weren't supposed to grow new brain tissue gives some promise to that.

      Actually, this is an old fallacy. Research over the past decade has indicated that adult brains do actually continue to grow [wikipedia.org].

    • So why did Jordy have to wear that stupid visor?

      For the same reason the NCC-1701 had clocks made out of spinning cylinders.

      KFG
    • After injecting the hamsters with a solution containing nanoparticles, the nerves re-grew and sight returned
      This is pretty advanced. So why did Jordy have to wear that stupid visor?

      IIRC it was because something unique about him prevented the surgery from working. They mentioned that in one show.
      The real question is why was the air filter he wore so big? From other parts of the show we already saw smaller cameras,power sources and processing units. So a device could of been able to be made that would
      • by dr_dank (472072) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:34AM (#14916585) Homepage Journal
        The real question is why was the air filter he wore so big?

        The prop guys probably had a bet going to see if that guy from Reading Rainbow would wear a banana clip on his face.
        • Sort of like the fact that most of Bones' tools in the Original Star Trek were made from salt and pepper shakers. Basically for the first episode the prop people had forgotten to make anything for his medical tools, and at the last minute just handed him a salt shaker. After that they went out searching for more and more elaborate salt shakers as a joke.
          • Sort of like the fact that most of Bones' tools in the Original Star Trek were made from salt and pepper shakers. Basically for the first episode the prop people had forgotten to make anything for his medical tools, and at the last minute just handed him a salt shaker. After that they went out searching for more and more elaborate salt shakers as a joke.
            I hate to parade my Star Trek geek credentials, but in Star Trek Memories by Shatner, it's stated that the salt shakers came in during the episode with th
    • This is pretty advanced. So why did Jordy have to wear that stupid visor?

      And why, oh why, was he able to see xrays, false color, extended light spectrums, heat and infared sensing, etc., but was unable to see a standard, color picture??

      That always drove me nuts... If you can project a picture in to the dood's brain, can't it be, say, ANY picture?

      • Better yet, how was he able to see neutrinos?

        BTW to grandparent it's spelled Geordi. As if you care.
      • Re:iPod NanoBots (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Verteiron (224042)
        I'm going to geek out here and post my own personal theory...

        Geordi was, I think, blind from birth. This wasn't fixed early on, and so his visual cortex therefore never developed to process input. Even if they had fixed his eyes, he still would not have been able to "see" images like the rest of us (this really happens). His air filter (okay, fine, VISOR) was designed to interface with the central sensory processing center of his brain (I forget what this region is called), providing additional input which
        • Mind you, this theory is shot to hell by the final episode of TNG, where he has to remove his VISOR because his "visual cortex is falling out of alignment" or something.

          I believe that you are referring to Star Trek: Insurrection where a regenerative field surrounding the planet featured in the movie causes Geordi's optic nerves to regenerate and restore his ability to see.

          It should be noted, however, that Geordi was not wearing the VISOR at the time, and had switched to ocular implants directly on the eyes.
          • I believe that you are referring to Star Trek: Insurrection... I'm going to geek-out here... It was in the final episode of TNG, where the temporal anomaly was causing time to go crazy. People reported old scars suddenly disappearing, and a few other things I can't remember. But the main one was that Geordi's eyes regrew. He was able to see with real eyes, and the visor was unusable. It was one of the few episodes where he didn't have to wear the white contacts when he took off the visor on-screen. I
            • I think there was only one other early in the series where Q had given him real eyes for a short time.

              Actually, this was Commander Riker, who had been temporarily endowed with the abilities of the Q.
    • This is pretty advanced. So why did Jordy have to wear that stupid visor?

      While scientists are undoubtedly doing their "working for humanity" thing I could see how such technology could be appiled to aging/reversing aging. (Which brings up the question why anybody would have wrinkles.)

      My expectation is that quite a lot of this tech will be used for cosmetic applications (in addition to helping the blind see and that sorta thing.) If the optimal look for attracting the opposite sex serves as a guide, women of
    • Unfortunately, if what i remember from my neuroscience coursework is correct, this sort of thing would not be applicable to regeneration of mylin sheaths, since they are generated by a 'wrapping' of the axon by seperate glial cells.

      This method of treatment seems more intended for guided regrowth (ever read about the experiment where they switched up a frog's optic tectum?).
      I recall seeing cross-sections of monkey brains after limited exposure to Ecstacy and the long term affects on seratonin-producing cells
  • Fantastic! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vengeance (46019) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @10:50AM (#14916090)
    What a great technology this looks to be. However, I would hesitate to call it 'nanotechnology', since it does not appear in any way to be 'molecular manufacturing'. Indeed, while the article didn't specify the means of production, making peptides sounds like chemistry to me.
    • I see a lot of talks on physics and more and more I am seeing people use certain buzzwords (like nanoparticle or quantum dot) in their title even though it really has nothing to do with their talk.
    • Jingoism at its worst.

      I use nanotechnology with every breath I draw. Nanoparticles of oxygen enter my lungs, merge with my bloodstream in nanoreactions, and are nano-ported to the rest of the nanomachines that make up my body.

      I really detest what journalism does to otherwise upstanding and level headed scientists
      • Jingoism means extreme patriotism, and generally implies support of war.

        Jargon is specialized technical language or terms
        • No, I don't think jargon is right either, since that would generally tend to indicate technical language used correctly. I think 'reporting' might get at the jist of what we have here: A buzzword being used incorrectly to create more sensationalism (unnecessarily, I might add).
    • Actually, sounds really close to "molecular manufacturing" to me. The peptides arrange themselves in a lattice around the severed nerve, and then the body's own repair mechanisms are able to fill in the gaps with a minimal of scarring, similar to a stitch or setting a broken bone. The nanotechnology part comes in the auto-assembling scaffold that you get just by injecting some chemicals.
    • "We made a cut, put the material in, and then we looked at the brain over different time points," explained Dr Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, a neuroscientist at MIT and lead author on the paper.

      "The first thing we saw was that the brain had started to heal itself in the first 24 hours. We had never seen that before - so that was very surprising."

      The article almost makes this sound like redneck science. "Hey Jethro, let's cut these hamster's optical nerves and see what happens when we dump a bunch of amino aci

    • We alrady have all of the machinery needed to perform 'molecular manufacturing' -- granted we didn't invent it but we're getting quite good at adapting it to make new things. I don't know how long the peptides used in this study were, but after a certain length it becomes easier to employ genetically modified microorganisms to synthesize them.

      When nanotech arrives my bet is that will be on a biochemical basis rather than the silicon-lithography basis that eats up all the funding nowadays. Designer proteins,
  • Everytime I read one of these articles with a breakthrough in treating a deadly disease or severe disability, I have to say to myself that it's surely a wonderful time to be a mouse!

    I hope these cures can be adapted for humans too.
    • by macklin01 (760841) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @10:55AM (#14916156) Homepage

      That's an interesting point, and I certainly think the parent is worth some mod points...

      The common joke I hear when I talk to oncologists is "I can cure cancer in any mouse," and there's a point to that: plenty of treatments show a lot of promise in the mouse model, only to not pan out when tried in humans. The mouse model is a good starting point for research, but it's not always a great predictor of human response. -- Paul

      • by dr_dank (472072) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:12AM (#14916324) Homepage Journal
        The mouse model is a good starting point for research, but it's not always a great predictor of human response.

        My hypothesis is that the responses would be the same. To test this, go to Disneyland and kick Mickey Mouse in the crotch. Then, kick a comparably-sized human male in the crotch. Note the similarities in the response.
        • Then, kick a comparably-sized human male in the crotch.

          I tried, but I couldn't find any human males with such gigantic heads...
        • by Anonymous Coward
          I went ahead an tried your experimient.

          First, I kicked my brother in the crotch. He doubled over, held his crotch and moaned. This was really just for form's sake cause I kick him there all the time and I already know what he does.

          Then, I went to Disneyland... almost screwed up the experiment cause my travel agent booked Disney World instead but I caught the error in time. Anyway, I wandered around looking at Mickey until he was the same size as my brother. Funny that he can change his size, but I tell youe
        • kick Mickey Mouse in the crotch. Then, kick a comparably-sized human male in the crotch. Note the similarities in the response.

          The problem is comparing this with laboratory mice. See, Mickey is Copyrighted while laboratory mice are Patented. Any comparison is doomed to fail under litigation.

      • - The mouse model is a good starting point for research, but it's not always a great predictor of human response.

        The next question: Why are we starting with mice if we can't always use promising developments on humans? Wouldn't that be a huge waste of initial effort and expectations?
        • by macklin01 (760841) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:25AM (#14916473) Homepage

          The next question: Why are we starting with mice if we can't always use promising developments on humans? Wouldn't that be a huge waste of initial effort and expectations?

          That's a great question. In part, it's a matter of ethics: you can't try out new ideas on human beings. Also, mice breed and grow quickly, which makes them faster to try new ideas on. But as stated, they aren't a great predictor. Another interesting thought (and one I don't have much insight on) is that perhaps some ideas that don't work out for mice might actually work in humans but are prematurely rejected. (i.e., if false positives are possible, shouldn't false negatives also be possible?)

          This touches on my work, in part; I'm a mathematician working on increasingly detailed computer models of cancer to see if we can eventually get a better and faster model than the mouse model. It's also a lot easier to control the experimental conditions on a computer. :)

          If you're interested in these kinds of questions, I'd recommend also checking out some BusinessWeek articles from about a year ago, where they talked about the state of cancer research. Their conclusion was that the biggest roadblock today is the mouse model. I don't remember the exact citation, but I could dig for it if you are interested. -- Paul

        • Because there is enough correlation, and because as a society we don't care if mice die/suffer and it's not "evil"/"murder"/"inhumane", if you ask enough people.

          I mean, isn't it natural for the average person to think, "better some mouse I don't even know than me"?

          If you test something, and the mouse doesn't die, then we feel safer trying it on some terminally ill patient. Then finally on someone with a less serious condition.
    • Agreed, it looks promising, but how far out is it in reality? We've all seen the timeline predictions fall again and again. Bless those furry little disease bags.
    • by isotope23 (210590) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @12:15PM (#14917022) Homepage Journal
      Scene - cold, dark, run down storage room in a lab complex.

      Mouseus :Eat the Red cheese and go back to your normal running wheel life.
                        Eat the Blue cheese and see just how deep the mousehole goes.

                          Welcome to the mouseterix....

    • We finally have a cure for all those poor labrats who, during cruel and unusual expirements, were exposed to Goatse.
  • paralysis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Douglas Simmons (628988) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @10:53AM (#14916124) Homepage
    Glad to see the blind getting some vaperhope, but might this process have potential to repair spinal damage?
  • I am sure that it will take a few generations for this to make it to human medical proceedures, as long as funding is not pulled away. If Christopher Reeve was frozen he might have had a chance in 100 years, if they can bring a frozen person back then.
  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:02AM (#14916239)
    This article is a little misleading, suggesting that we can start squirting these tiny peptides into peoples bodies and they'd suddenly get cured.

    Much of the permanence of nerve damage is due to scarring, which creates a barrier that nerves can't heal across. If you cut the nerve and put this gel into the wound within 45 minutes, it apparently helps the healing process. The reason? Minimizing scarring: [guardian.co.uk]
    Dr Ellis-Behnke believes the therapy stops scar tissue forming and protects damaged nerves, allowing them to regrow only in the damaged area of the brain.
    Of course, this doesn't mean it's a useless discovery. If you have to perform surgery, say tumor removal, injecting this gel may promote growth in any nerves you may have just cut.
    • So whats to stop one from recutting the nerve, cutting away the scars, and applying the jel then putting the peices back together again. Obviously it may or may not work, and is probably what these scientist are trying right now.
      • The clock's ticking (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:41AM (#14916667)
        It certainly may be possible to do those sort of things. The tricky part is that a good number of the cells may simply die off if the injury isn't quickly repaired. Another effect of the gel is to provide a nutrient-rich solution to help growth, so time is of the essence.

        The good news is that there's lots of research going into nerve regeneration and repair. Things like nerve growth factors, removing mylein-induced inhibition, and stem cells are all promising fields.

        It'll be interesting when people's brains can be kept alive for long periods of time by replacing or modifying large chucks of it. When do I stop being really me?
    • before the treatment, for folks who have had long term damage?
  • Beyond sight (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@OOOopto ... inus threevowels> on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:03AM (#14916241) Journal
    "We made a cut, put the material in, and then we looked at the brain over different time points," explained Dr Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, a neuroscientist at MIT and lead author on the paper.

    "The first thing we saw was that the brain had started to heal itself in the first 24 hours. We had never seen that before - so that was very surprising."

    Hopefully this means this it could be used in the peripheral nervous system as well, to heal severed sensory neurons, or perhaps even spinal cord injuries. Too bad Christopher Reeve won't be around to see that.

  • Would this also work on the three blind mice?
  • by dnamaners (770001) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:09AM (#14916303) Journal
    From my point of view and IAAMB (I am a molecular biologist) this is only encouraging. it has been shown several times and through several ways you can get nerves to regrow in a living animal. We have seen stems cells, hormones smooth surfaces, and now injectable protein gel however all these tricks fail on a few levels. But there are some issues I have:

    1.) Such procedures are useless for fixing old damage, scar tissue build up physically prevents nerves from "having a place to grow into". Additionally, large gaps are still impossible, so for big lesions or paternally using a surgical procedure to prep a site to regenerate will not fly. You cant just cut out the chunk of "damaged goods" and let it regrow fresh. So unless you use this trick as the article suggests at the time of injury ( surgery time perhaps), before scar forms you have ) chance of help.

    2.) The other problem is one of myelination, the insulation around the axon on each motor nerve. Adult tissue lacks the ability to produce significant amounts of myelin to sheath nerves. Fetal stem cells cant, but not adult tissue. So it is likely that any nerves grown this way will be de-myelinated and not at all good for good signal transmission. Incidentally, one common type of de-myelinated nerve is the sensory nerve. just imagine, fix a arm amputation this way and i bet you will get VERY weal motor control, and potentially full or malformed sensory information due to the very good regrowth of random sensory nerves (think life long chronic pain). This side effect has been seen in a number of spinal injury patients given experimental stem cell treatment in china (right location I think).

    3.) Of course proteins are small, nano even, but how is this "Nanotech". This would be more like "Biotech", ahh well the rain of buzz words to sell ideas shall continue unabated.
    • You raise some good points, but then again, it wasn't too long ago that it was considered "impossible" to get mammalian nerve tissue to regenerate. Now it's being shown that it can be done, even if in a limited manner.

      There's still a lot of ground that has to be covered, and there's going to be a lot of false leads as well. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work with one of the pioneers of transplant surgery. The tales he told of the difficulties they faced back in the 1950's trying to figur

    • You can get nerves to regrow in a living animal?

      What?? You don't have to "get" them to regrow. They do so on their own!

      Want proof? I have Bell's Palsy. The nerve in the left side of my face died and my face was half-paralyzed. But now the nerve is growing back. Every day, some part of my face starts twitching as the newly-grown never attaches to it.

      The moral of the story is: some nerves do grow back on their own. Nerve regrowth is a common thing that happens in animals all the time without any medicine of a
  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:21AM (#14916421)
    Absolutely amazing story. On a related note I know a guy who has been stuck in a wheelchair for 10+ years. He was a helicoptor pilot for the national guard long ago and had an accident where he landed really hard. The skids of the helicoptor were damaged but he walked away with a really bruised backside. 10 years after the accident he woke up one morning unable to move his legs. Apparently the accident had caused some sort of damage to his lower spine that wasn't diagnosed until his legs stopped working. Well after 10+ years in the wheelchair he was picked for a double-blind medical study with some European medical firm. After doing nothing more than taking a pill for a few weeks he was able to walk again with the help of a walker. The fact that we can develop a pill that can target conditions like blindness or this spinal injury is truely amazing.
  • by samjam (256347) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:23AM (#14916441) Homepage Journal
    BBC Scientists made blind mice into the Borg who armed themselves with linux powered laser-headed sharks and took over the BBC and released this pleasant sounding statement.

    We're doomed! Borg mice, who'd'a'thought it!

    Sam
  • not nanotech! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bodrell (665409) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:28AM (#14916501) Journal
    Other people have mentioned it, but I'll say it again:

    This is not nanotechnology.

    The scientists injected peptides. Short strings of amino acids. The same stuff that comprises every protein in our bodies. So how is that nanotech? Simply because molecules are on the nanometer scale? Then I guess that makes all electronics pico- or femtotechnology.

    Don't listen to the bullshit article's vocabulary--there's a more appropriate word for what they're doing, and it's called MOLECULAR BIOLOGY

    • The word "chemistry" is now considered archaic. Use "nanotechnology". Likewise, replace the archaic word "chemist" with "nanotechnologist".

      BTW, a protien is just an overgrown peptide. Basically they injected protien.
    • The fact that molecular biology was around before the term "nanotechnology" was conceived does not disqualify it--it is a perfectly viable method for engineering nm scale materials, and probably the approach that will yield the greatest advances in the near future. To me, the point at which molecular biology becomes nanotechnology is when it is used to engineer novel molecules, as opposed to just shuffling them around from organism to organism or cell to cell.
      • It is not nanotechnology unless you are manipulating individual atoms or molecules. They are not doing this. QED, it is not nanotechnology. Thank you, please drive through.
        • It is not nanotechnology unless you are manipulating individual atoms or molecules. They are not doing this. QED, it is not nanotechnology.

          They are manufacturing synthetic peptides. Peptides are molecules. QED.
          • They're not making one peptide at a time, though. They're using a process that creates groups of molecules. I won't bother finding a clever way to insert "QED" this time around...
            • They're not making one peptide at a time, though. They're using a process that creates groups of molecules.

              Chemical reactions typically occur one molecule at a time. One could easily set up conditions of concentration such that only one molecule is being made at any given time, although this would be rather inefficient when you need a lot of them. Are you seriously trying to argue that a "factory" efficiently producing a nanoscale molecule does not qualify as nanotechnology, while producing exactly the sam
              • One could easily set up conditions of concentration such that only one molecule is being made at any given time, although this would be rather inefficient when you need a lot of them.

                Great. Now show me a condition of concentration such that only one molecule is being made, not at a time but being made period, and you are able to find it and do something with it, and I'll concede the point.

                • Re:Sure it is (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by tgibbs (83782)
                  Great. Now show me a condition of concentration such that only one molecule is being made, not at a time but being made period, and you are able to find it and do something with it, and I'll concede the point.

                  Again, this is easy to do. One can easily find a dilution such that there is no more than one molecule of substrate per tube, while immunological and fluorescence methods are capable of binding and tracking individual molecules, if for some reason it was necessary to do so. But you are begging the ques
                  • Note that most proposed applications of nanotechnology do not involve the use of single molecules, but rather the use of a population of nanoscale molecules or molecular assemblies. So your argument is a bit like insisting that it is automotive mechanics to build one car by hand, but not if you build the same car in a factory on an assembly line.

                    If they don't depend on the placement of individual atoms or molecules then it's not really nanotechnology.

                    Nanoscale doesn't make nanotech.

                    Now, nanobuil

                    • If they don't depend on the placement of individual atoms or molecules then it's not really nanotechnology.

                      Every one of those individual atoms in those peptides is placed at a specific location. Biochemistry is a very powerful tool for placing specific atoms at specific places.

                      Also, the value of nanotechnology is not only in passive structures whose design is static, and based on its simple physical properties, but also in structures that appear (at our scale of perception) to be solid, but which are actual
                    • It sounds to me like, according to your argument, all chemistry can be defined as nanotechnology.

                      Doesn't that make the term redundant?

                    • I would say that chemistry is nanotechnology when it is capable of positioning specific atoms at specific locations. So simple solution chemistry lacks this specificity and does not qualify, but chemistry directed by a specific molecular catalyst that recognize a specific site for modification does.
    • there's a more appropriate word for what they're doing, and it's called MOLECULAR BIOLOGY

      That's two words.

  • It's neat to see an altnerative to stem cells. A few months ago, I read about a mouse suffering from degeneration of the retina that regained some of its eyesight from an injection of stem cells into the area.
  • Why o why did they have to use HAMSTERS??
  • My first thought (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrNougat (927651) <ckratsch@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:48AM (#14916725)
    when reading the title "Nanotech and the Blind" was that we'll just make everything excruciatingly small so no one can see it, thereby making everyone "blind" and balancing the scales.

    Kind of like how "No Child Left Behind" can be true, so long as everyone is held back equally.
  • This helps to explain why Chicago makes blind students take Driver's Education classes. A little Nano-Technology and they will be able to drive. Read More Here [inaniloquent.com]
  • by ursabear (818651) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @12:20PM (#14917075) Homepage Journal
    I'm really excited about this type of work. Those who used to be sighted that have lost their sight (or had their sight impaired) may be able to regain the senses they once had. The medical implications of these technologies are exciting.

    I would like to play the thinker's advocate, though. It is important to understand the other side of this... blind culture, much like deaf culture, is a distinct means of life - one that doesn't think that blind (or deaf) people are "broken" in some way. Yes, folks with all five of their senses tend to look at those with less-than-five as though something is "wrong" with them. But, from the perspective of a great many blind and deaf people, they're not "broken" or "impaired" at all. Indeed, in some places, the deaf and the blind communities celebrate their different-ness and have wonderful, productive lives. You can see a few starting points here at this simple Wikipedia article: Wikipedia article on deaf culture [wikipedia.org].

    With all that said... if indeed this technology leads to folks (that want to see (or see again)) having new or regained sight, then I'm really interested in this. I'd like to see this technology extended to nerve damage, spinal repairs (particularly spinal injury repair).
    • It is important to understand the other side of this... blind culture, much like deaf culture, is a distinct means of life - one that doesn't think that blind (or deaf) people are "broken" in some way.

      Them thinking it doesn't make it true. I'm certainly not bashing blind culture, deaf culture or any other culture here, but they are, in fact, "broken". They have organs that don't work as designed. Doesn't make them lesser people, doesn't mean they aren't as happy, fulfilled, mean, frustrated, joyful, etc

      • Insisting that a child remain deaf, when the option exists to allow them to hear at least somewhat, [...]

        This is indeed the canonical nutty position when it comes to "deaf culture". But the cochlear implant isn't a no-brainer. For one thing, it involves surgery which has intrinsic risks. For another, you'd want to make sure that appropriate support and social services were still available to the child, and not denied on grounds that the kid's now not "deaf enough" to qualify for sign language or lip-re

  • Technology for helping nerves heal goes back to at least the 1950's... In one episode of MASH one surgeon suggests wrapping tantalum foil around nerves to help them heal.

    And on the Hamster front, don't tell Richard Gere about this!

  • Better description (Score:5, Interesting)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @12:38PM (#14917262) Homepage Journal
    I submitted this story with a better description and a better link from MIT. [mit.edu]

    Actually what happened is this: the tracks in the visual cortex were severed and then a biodegradable peptide solution was injected into the damaged area in the brain, which created a 3d matrix of that allowed new cells to the edges in the matrix thus reconstructing the actual cell connections rather than producing scarring tissue.

    This process can be applied to damaged areas of the brain or nerves in the spinal cord.

    I think this brings the humans one step closer to immortality - imagine using stem cellls and these peptides to reconstruct damage of the brain and the nerve system that is caused by aging and/or trauma.
    • In the spinal cord, you have 31 pairs of very long nerve cells. It isn't one small cell bridging to another. So I don't think this technology necessarily scales for spinal injuries - and the BBC site was not suggesting it did either.

      Nevertheless, this is important research and a serious step forward in reapiring neurological damage.

      I hope the researchers run with this a long way and get major practical treatments of wide ranging application from it. Great wealth, a trip to Stockholm and a grateful planet aw
      • In the spinal cord, you have 31 pairs of very long nerve cells. It isn't one small cell bridging to another. So I don't think this technology necessarily scales for spinal injuries - and the BBC site was not suggesting it did either. - that is why I provided this link to the MIT site [mit.edu] where this research is taking place.

        Quote from MIT article:

        This technique, which involves giving brain cells an internal matrix on which to regrow, just as ivy grows on a trellis, may one day help patients with traumatic brain
  • I can't decide which will garner more Funny mods...a Lemmiwinks joke or an obscure Star Trek TNG cellular peptide with mint frosting reference. Decisions decisions...

  • ... then the technology can also be used to harm.

    The implications of biological warfare could be about to become a whole lot more interesting.

    • Yes, I can really see how a surgically delivered nano peptide to promote axon growth would instantly make 65 years of work on nerve agents such as sarin totally redundant. :roll eyes:

      Or then again, you might just be a clueless immature slashdotter too wrapped up in his own life to understand encouraging medical research when you read it.
  • 1. surgical severing - in the real world, it's more likely blunt force trauma or an infectious jagged part of a car stuck in your brain.

    2. hamsters are not human - mind you, experimenting on hamsters is probably a better idea than experimenting on humans.

    3. for all we know, it's just sticky factor regluing it together.

    4. initial studies, until replicated with sufficient controls more than once with similar results, are just that - initial studies. wait until we get larger amounts of data before Worshipping
  • It should be noted that 'cures for blindness' are only useful in people who have developed their visual systems; that is, people who were not blind during their early ages when the brain was very plastic. For those who are blind all their life, suddenly gaining the sense of vision is pretty much useless; the person is still effectively blind as their brain has not developed the meaning of vision, and how to use it.
  • Why didn't she cure LaForge's sight? This is a hoax, I tell you!
  • As I understand it (definite layman here) people who are blind from birth never develop the capacity to process visual information. It will be interesting to see if a mouse or human who has been blind from birth can develop useful sight.

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