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« Bottom-Up Solar Energy | Main | Global Arms Control Demise »

October 24, 2006

Comments

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jim moore

Just to riff on the machines don't have to grow idea;

Can you "ink jet" out a functioning organism out of a "printer"?


If so then,

What kind of biological / electromechanical cyborg would you fab if you could fab?

michael vassar

I would say that bacteria don't necessarily obey the bottom 4 constraints, and parasites of any sort can occasionally require refined chemicals.

michael vassar

Good point Jim. I have been thinking about that a lot lately. The most dramatic option that I see, using something like this tech
http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=13590&ch=biotech
would be printing whole new bodies for CNS transplantation.
I would start by trying to print a natural regenerator such as certain salamanders. If that worked, try it on regenerating mice.
http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/tales_of_the_x_mice/
Unlike the salamanders, which may be able to,
(does anyone here know if
http://www.indiana.edu/~pietsch/shufflebrain.html
is legit. It sounds very a-priori unlikely but doesn't quite have the feel of pseudoscience)
the mice won't be able to self-assemble brains, but if you make them without a CNS you may be able to transfer in the CNS of another mouse.
By this time, the genes associated with mouse regeneration should have been identified,
http://newsbureau.upmc.com/TX/DarpaGrant.htm
and hopefully inserted into human stem cells. If so, a person could be rebuilt in-vitro from their own genotype, with whatever modifications are desired (cosmetic, at least at first, prehaps ultra deep covert ops?, plus no appendix etc of course).
The most interesting modification that could be added is more cerebral volume. It might be hoped that a larger brain case might, in combination with nerve growth factors and neural stem cells, lead to the functional expansion of the brain. The risks associated with an approach such as this might be substantially reduced by using stem cells with some special nutritional dependency so that if the migrated into the brain and disturbed normal function they could be removed.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

In a book called The Body Electric, another research scientist reports on heart regeneration in salamanders. You get salamander blood by cutting their heart open. Then you throw away the salamander... right? Well, his lab assistant got curious and saved them... and the heart regenerated in less than a week.

Salamander red blood cells are nucleated. A clot forms. The cells then dissolve... and reconstitute themselves into heart muscle. If I recall correctly, within hours the heart is starting to beat again. The author described it as something like: a car pulls up to a stalled truck, the car's engine climbs under the hood of the truck and drives it away.

Reconstituting hearts seems about equally plausible as swapping brains. So although I don't know either experiment or experimenter first-hand, the fact that two different experiments reported similar results makes them both a bit more likely.

Chris

NanoEnthusiast

I do remember seeing a very gruesome experiment where a monkey's head was transplanted onto another body, needless to say it did not live long. However, I'm sure at some point such a technique will be perfected.

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