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Controversy About Brain Preservation

10 April 2018
Giulio Prisco

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Most unfortunately, MIT has decided to withdraw from a collaboration with Nectome, the research company that won the Brain Preservation Prize. This shows how the medical and scientific “establishment” is not always a fair and supportive environment for breakthrough, future-oriented medical research.

Readers of Pulse 56: Brain Preservation Breakthrough for Next-Generation Cryonics can find more recent developments, and interviews with experts in cryonics and brain emulation, in my Vice Motherboard story. In the story I try to provide a balanced factual view, very much needed after some sensationalized and misleading coverage by the tabloid press. I also organized a lively online discussion with experts and enthusiasts in Second Life.

Back to the present, pasta lovers can rightfully rejoice: In a scientific study, researchers found that pasta didn't contribute to weight gain or increase in body fat. In fact, analysis actually showed a small weight loss. So contrary to concerns, perhaps pasta can be part of a healthy diet.

New immunotherapy is surprisingly effective in fighting lung cancer. Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina have reported that, in a recent clinical trial to treat lung cancer, a novel immunotherapy combination has been shown to be surprisingly effective at controlling the disease's progression. The study, published in The Lancet Oncology and described as “a groundbreaking development” by the researchers, focused on non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most common form of lung cancer.

Computer picks up words said silently in the user’s head. MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that can transcribe words that the user verbalizes internally but does not actually speak aloud. The interface, described in a research paper presented at the ACM Intelligent User Interface conference, consists of a wearable device and an associated computing system. Electrodes in the device pick up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalizations (saying words “in your head”), and the signals are fed to a machine-learning system that has been trained to correlate particular signals with particular words.

Artificial nano enzymes kill bacteria with light. Researchers at RMIT University have developed new artificial enzymes that use light to kill bacteria. The “NanoZymes,” made from tiny nanorods 1000 times smaller than the thickness of the human hair, could one day be used in the fight against infections, and to keep high-risk public spaces like hospitals free of bacteria like E. coli and Golden Staph. A research paper published in ACS Applied Nano Materials shows that the NanoZymes work in the lab. The scientists are now evaluating the long-term performance of the NanoZymes in consumer products.

Reprogramming place memory cells in the live brain. Scientists at Tübingen University have reprogrammed place cells - specialized cells that store long-term memory of specific places - in free-moving mice, by sending electrical impulses directly to individual neurons. A study published in Cell Reports indicates that, after electrical stimulation, the place cells were ‘reprogrammed’ with the location where the stimulation was performed. According to the researchers, the findings provide insights into the basic mechanisms that lead to the formation of new memories.

Antibiotic resistant germs are widespread in the US. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned that health departments working with CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance (AR) Lab Network found more than 220 instances of germs with “unusual” antibiotic resistance genes in the United States last year. A CDC Vital Signs report adds that 11 percent of screening tests, in people with no symptoms, found a hard-to-treat germ that spreads easily. The US federal government is testing innovative infection control and prevention strategies with health care and academic partners.

Re-engineered yeast produces cough suppressant with potential anti-cancer properties. Stanford University bioengineers have found a way to produce noscapine, a non-narcotic cough suppressant that occurs naturally in opium poppies, by reconstructing its biosynthetic pathway in brewer's yeast. A research paper published in PNAS describes how the scientists engineered brewer’s yeast with over 30 enzymes from medicinal plants, microorganisms and mammals to enable rapid, fermentation-based production of noscapine. Besides acting as a cough suppressant, noscapine has potential anti-cancer properties.

Bioengineered antigen activates T cells to fight cancer. University of Connecticut chemists have created a new lipid antigen that helps stimulate disease-fighting T cells in the immune system. A study published in Cell Chemical Biology describes a modified version of an earlier synthesized compound that is highly effective in activating human invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells, and in stimulating the cells to release proteins that promote anti-tumor immunity. According to the scientists, the research results open up new paths for the development of better cancer therapy drugs and vaccines.

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