We're putting human brain bits in mice and they're growing in there
November 13, 2017 10:45 AM   Subscribe

"These micro quasi-brains are revolutionizing research on human brain development and diseases from Alzheimer’s to Zika, but the headlong rush to grow the most realistic, most highly developed brain organoids has thrown researchers into uncharted ethical waters....In the previously unreported experiments implanting human brain organoids into lab rodents, most of the transplants survived....More notably, the human organoids implanted into mice connected to the rodent’s circulatory system, making this the first reported vascularization. And mature neurons from the human brain organoid sent axons, the wires that carry electrical signals from one neuron to another, into “multiple regions of the host mouse brain,” according to a team led by Fred “Rusty” Gage of the Salk Institute".
posted by Diablevert (38 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.
posted by logicpunk at 10:47 AM on November 13 [42 favorites]


You were thinking the same thing I was thinking.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:49 AM on November 13 [14 favorites]


Mrs. Frisby?
posted by praemunire at 10:50 AM on November 13 [14 favorites]


Pretty soon everyone will be buying brain organiods to connect to their home automation and theater systems and what not.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:01 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Building a better mouse trap.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:02 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


#PlanetOfTheMice
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:06 AM on November 13 [2 favorites]




There's an Abby Nermal joke in here somewhere.
posted by colossal at 11:13 AM on November 13 [3 favorites]


i blame Frankie and Benjy
posted by entropicamericana at 11:15 AM on November 13 [5 favorites]


“The real point is this: We don't know where to go because we don't know what we are. Do you want to go back to living in a sewer-pipe? And eating other people's garbage? Because that's what rats do. But the fact is, we aren't rats anymore. We are something Dr. Schultz has made. Something new.”
― Robert C. O'Brien, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
posted by Fizz at 11:17 AM on November 13 [23 favorites]


It was supposed to be a warning, not an inspiration!!
posted by I-Write-Essays at 11:33 AM on November 13 [7 favorites]


Terrifying, but could improve the functioning of the current administration?
posted by stillmoving at 11:39 AM on November 13 [5 favorites]


"You think we're kidding? You forget about Cleveland, already? This is payback time. Take the cheese, you tailless punk. Take the fucking cheese."
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:42 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Terrifying, but could improve the functioning of the current administration?

There are already TOO many rats in Congress, we don't need more.
posted by Fizz at 11:49 AM on November 13 [2 favorites]


So who do we welcome now? Our new... human overlords?
posted by Laotic at 11:54 AM on November 13 [2 favorites]


Surprised Disney isn't all over this...
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:55 AM on November 13


Bring on the pigoons!
posted by Capricorn13 at 12:00 PM on November 13 [6 favorites]


These micro quasi-brains are revolutionizing research on human brain development and diseases from Alzheimer’s to Zika, but the headlong rush to grow the most realistic, most highly developed brain organoids has thrown researchers into uncharted ethical waters.
When transplanted human brain organoids approach the same level of intelligence and self-awareness as the adult pigs that we slaughter by the millions every year, I'll accept that we're entered uncharted ethical territory. Until then, we're in ethical territory so well charted that we don't even bother to think about it.
posted by eotvos at 12:02 PM on November 13 [38 favorites]


The tone of the thread is probably my fault for being flip with the title, but did you all get to the bit where they've wired the some of the bits in vats up to retinal cells and got them to fire? Or how they ones in the rat brains also seem to be firing in response to input, in much the same one one would expect the thinky bit of all brains to work? Or how now that they've achieved vascularization, wiring the organoids up in a sort of parallel processing rig is an obvious next step? They've already done two bits. They need to do more in order to model diseases. If they get to 1,000 linked organoids they'll have created something with the equivalent neuron count of you know, an actual mouse brain. In a vat.

I mean, y'all are joking about Frankenstein; the Stanford legal scholar and bioethics is straight up saying "I think that story is relevant to what we’re talking about." This is all like real stuff that's actually happening in the world.

I dunno man, I thought the ear-mouse had it rough. (Also, "organoids"? Man, if you wanted a term that sounds like it came straight out of the cackling-under-the-lightning-rod handbook, you couldn't have done better.)

But anyway, I find it interesting how many of the scientists quoted are like, "of course such things couldn't be conscious. Because -- well, because, that's why!" Ooooooh-kay. Great. Goody goody gumdrops.
posted by Diablevert at 12:10 PM on November 13 [18 favorites]


Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:16 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Flowers for Algernon is no longer fiction.
posted by The Great David S. Pumpkins at 12:18 PM on November 13


did you all get to the bit where they've wired the some of the bits in vats up to retinal cells and got them to fire? Or how they ones in the rat brains also seem to be firing in response to input, in much the same one one would expect the thinky bit of all brains to work?

yes and this is why i look forward to being 70 years old working at sbux and one of these rats is my manager
posted by poffin boffin at 12:28 PM on November 13 [3 favorites]


You were thinking the same thing I was thinking.

But what are the mice thinking?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:37 PM on November 13


yes and this is why i look forward to being 70 years old working at sbux and one of these rats is my manager

I've worked for worse.
posted by The Great David S. Pumpkins at 12:39 PM on November 13


yes and this is why i look forward to being 70 years old working at sbux and one of these rats is my manager

Her name is Kyle and she prefers the term Rattus. And you're working all 3-10 pm shifts for the next month.
posted by Fizz at 12:53 PM on November 13 [4 favorites]


It’s a story straight out of a Peter Watts SF novel. And if that doesn't terrify you, nothing will...
posted by pharm at 12:59 PM on November 13 [5 favorites]


brain goo for algernon
posted by j_curiouser at 1:02 PM on November 13


Terrifying, but could improve the functioning of the current administration?

No. You first need a brain functioning on the level of a common mouse.
posted by Splunge at 1:23 PM on November 13 [3 favorites]


My lease expires in December, and the mice just gave notice, they want to move a large family in.
posted by Oyéah at 1:24 PM on November 13


Faint of Butt: No Spill Blood.

There are a few issues here that I can see coming from assumptions that we more or less generally accept. eotvos brought up one big one, which is that we (cultural we) seem to have a list of reasons and a list of animals where it's okay to cause suffering. We don't like cruelty other than on that list, even if the list isn't explicit. This seems to be moving rats (on the list) off of it.

Another assumption that we seem to make is that there's something inherently special about human neurons. That we take some fraction of the human neurons inside a human brain, put them in a lab rat, and we've created a fractionally human rat. I'm not exactly convinced, but I'm also not an expert.

Finally there's an assumption about consciousness being something that just kind of falls out of a certain complexity of brain or a certain mass of neurons. Again, I'm not exactly convinced of that.

My immediate thought is that you need more research and particularly more control groups. With the optic nerve connections, how does it look if instead of using cultured human neurons, you use cultured rat neurons. Is the behavior of the animals affected when human tissue connects up. If I'm wrong in my skepticism, you'd expect to be able to see differences.

Also, Apropos of the SMAC discussion:

We are all aware that the senses can be deceived, the eyes fooled. But how can we be sure our senses are not being deceived at any particular time, or even all the time? Might I just be a brain in a tank somewhere, tricked all my life into believing in the events of this world by some insane computer? And does my life gain or lose meaning based on my reaction to such solipsism?

Project PYRRHO, Specimen 46, Vat 7. Activity recorded M.Y. 2302.22467. (TERMINATION OF SPECIMEN ADVISED)
posted by Grimgrin at 1:26 PM on November 13 [6 favorites]


Building a better mouse

That's an insult to mice everywhere.
posted by chillmost at 1:27 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Hoping sciatrix will weigh in soon on how this might affect their singing skills...
posted by Mchelly at 1:27 PM on November 13 [4 favorites]


Remember folks, sign your organ donor cards, or check the box, or whatnot, and your brain can one day be the basis of an entire line of genetically-engineer brain organoids inside hyper-intelligent rodents, lacking both a soul and any form of mercy. aka the Doom that came to Cerebellum!

Hey, at least it's a form of immortality!
posted by blue_beetle at 2:25 PM on November 13 [3 favorites]


"These micro quasi-brains are revolutionizing research on human brain development and diseases from Alzheimer’s to Zika, but the headlong rush to grow the most realistic, most highly developed brain organoids has thrown researchers into uncharted ethical waters."

When transplanted human brain organoids approach the same level of intelligence and self-awareness as the adult pigs that we slaughter by the millions every year, I'll accept that we're entered uncharted ethical territory. Until then, we're in ethical territory so well charted that we don't even bother to think about it.


But the very next sentence in the piece was:

"Like virtually all experts in the field, neuroscientist Hongjun Song of the University of Pennsylvania doesn’t “believe an organoid in a dish can think,” he said, “but it’s an issue we need to discuss.”"

So virtually all experts agree that the ethics are uncharted to the extent that they haven't begun talking about it, in contrast to not bothering to think about it because it's well charted.

I think the article further down also mentions that scientific community has not reached ethical consensus, specifically citing that the NIH has a stance on human-animal embryonic stem cell experimentation but not on human-animal organoid experimentation, and this "obvious" inconsistency in policy is a sign that stuff hasn't been figured out or charted yet. That's what the article probably meant by its wording.
posted by polymodus at 3:27 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


In high school, I interned at The Jackson Labratory, which mapped a significant portion of the mouse geonome, produces something like 24% of the world's research mice, and does a serious amount of research. I did a whole lot of western blotting of mouse blood, rabbit shaving (yes, rabbit), and built a foxpro database (yes - before access bought them).

Anyway, mouse brains... I am not concerned with building a better mouse. We have been trying to do that for a long long time. Super smart psionic mice? Sure... why not? What could go wrong?

I mean... they are small enough that even in a lab you can have hundreds of thousands of them on a floor - with exact knowledge of their genetic defects and dispositions. I mean... you could figure out exactly what genetic combonation plus mind altering madness warrants nicknaming a mouse of your chosing, '011'... you could be Papa or Mama.

I watched way too much stranger things this weekend.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:11 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Isn't it irresponsible to let the foxpros guard the mice?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 6:23 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


"Cheesecheesecheesechee...hang on - I'm naked!"
"Cheesecheesechee...good Lord, so am I!"
"Whatever shall we do?"
"Hmm. We could dedicate our lives to understanding the physical world and developing new ways to make one another feel happier and more fulfilled. Perhaps we'll explore the cosmos together!"
"Or, wait a second, or...we could write down some rules about setting fire to people we don't like."
"Ooh, that's brilliant."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:58 PM on November 13 [3 favorites]


When do they start cooking for us.
posted by amtho at 3:54 AM on November 14


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