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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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  • Fantastic! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vengeance (46019) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:50AM (#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.
  • by macklin01 (760841) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:55AM (#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 waif69 (322360) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @11:59AM (#14916208) Journal
    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 SpiritGod21 (884402) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @12:06PM (#14916262) Homepage
    There's a lot of work, testing, and development that has to go into this before it can be used on humans. We don't know yet if the "repairs" are permanent or if the hamster's sight will deterioriate within weeks/months. We also don't know the side effects this would have on a human. Bottom line: this is a first step. An impressive one, no doubt, but it's important to remember that this isn't a tried and true cure, found and ready for manufacturing and distribution. In that sense, this really is only a first half-step; they're not even ready to begin using it for neurosurgery yet.
  • 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.
  • not nanotech! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bodrell (665409) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @12:28PM (#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

  • by vertinox (846076) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @12:45PM (#14916696)
    One can only hope that the amount of effort it takes to make these (even if for benevolent reasons) is expensive/difficult enough to keep all but the most altruistic applications out of the mix.

    Hrm... Wouldn't it be easier to cultivate Anthrax or make Nerve Gas for military applications?

    Well truth be told aerosol attacks are highly ineffective for military applications.
  • by ursabear (818651) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:20PM (#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).

Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment. -- Robert Benchley

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