The dream of augmented humans endures, despite skepticism

The Japan Times

PARIS - Brain implants, longer lives, genetically modified humans: For the prophets of "transhumanism" -- the scientifically assisted evolution of humans beyond our current limitations -- it is just a matter of time. But many scientists insist that some problems are not so easily solved. Sooner or later, they argue, the movement that crystallized in the can-do culture of 1980s California will hit the brick wall of the scientifically impossible. The most recent controversy was in November, when Chinese scientist He Jiankui claimed to have created the world's first genetically edited babies, who he said were HIV-resistant. The backlash from the scientific community led to his work being suspended, as questions were raised not just about the quality of the science, but the ethics of the research.

Mapping the brain, cell by cell

MIT News

MIT chemical engineers and neuroscientists have devised a new way to preserve biological tissue, allowing them to visualize proteins, DNA, and other molecules within cells, and to map the connections between neurons. The researchers showed that they could use this method, known as SHIELD, to trace the connections between neurons in a part of the brain that helps control movement and other neurons throughout the brain. "Using our technique, for the first time, we were able to map the connectivity of these neurons at single-cell resolution," says Kwanghun Chung, an assistant professor of chemical engineering and a member of MIT's Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. "We can get all this multiscale, multidimensional information from the same tissue in a fully integrated manner because with SHIELD we can protect all this information." Chung is the senior author of the paper, which appears in the Dec. 17 issue of Nature Biotechnology.

14 great science and tech books to give as presents this Christmas

New Scientist

CARLO ROVELLI is the man who can spin hard physics into pure gold. The Order of Time is his third book. Like the first (Seven Brief Lessons on Physics), it has been an instant bestseller. In this state-of-the-art survey of what physicists thought and now think about the nature of time, Rovelli is both unsettling (time does not exist) and philosophical (the study of time "does nothing but return us to ourselves"). IT MAY not be a classic Christmas whodunnit, but The Beautiful Cure is a page-turner.

Microsoft patent shows wearable band with haptic feedback


Microsoft's latest patent application shows the company has worked on a wearable band that would wrap around limbs or joints and use haptic feedback for therapeutic stimulation. Microsoft's wearable wouldn't count steps or measure heart rates, but rather is designed to alleviate symptoms of conditions that affect a person's ability to move or control limbs, such as tremors or stiff muscles caused by Parkinson's disease. The device would have many haptic actuators distributed across a band that can be adjusted in terms of each actuator's "duty cycle" in response to sensor data, according to the patent. That data could come from sensors on the wearable itself or a nearby tablet or phone that communicates with it over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. For example, Microsoft envisages that sensors in a stylus or a tablet could communicate with a wrist-worn therapeutic device in order to detect involuntary motion of the user when writing.

Advantages of using AI tech and industries that will be transformed by it


Necessity has most always been the mother of inventions. During World War II, the Enigma machine developed by Germany was proving to be a severe headache for the allies as they were unable to decipher messages that were encoded by Enigma. They went a step ahead by developing the Bombe machine through a team headed by the genius British scientist Alan Turing, who is widely regarded as the father of modern computing. The Enigma and Bombe machines can be regarded as having laid the foundation for future "intelligent" machines. It wasn't, however, until 1956 when the term Artificial Intelligence was coined by American computer scientist John McCarthy.

Tencent's New Medical AI Lab Targets Parkinson's – Synced – Medium


Chinese tech giant Tencent's first attempt in AI healthcare was the Miying platform, which has been a point of pride for CEO Huateng Ma since its 2017 launch. Supported by AI-powered medical imaging technologies, Miying assists doctors with the screening of esophageal cancer, pulmonary nodules, cervical cancer, etc. The platform has been well received in the AI and medical communities, with a fast-expanding market in Chinese top-tier AAA hospitals. At the recent International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders in Hong Kong, Tencent unveiled its second layout in AI healthcare: Medical AI Lab. The lab team includes experts in machine learning, computational vision, video analytics, augmented reality (AR), natural language understanding (NLU), etc. Tencent Medical AI Lab is the latest in the company's continuing efforts on AI to Business marketing.

Comprehensive functional genomic resource and integrative model for the human brain


Ranking score levels and functional categories are as in the key in (B). Highlighted ranks and terms correspond to examples shown in (D).

Transcriptome-wide isoform-level dysregulation in ASD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder


Our understanding of the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), schizophrenia (SCZ), and bipolar disorder (BD), lags behind other fields of medicine. The diagnosis and study of these disorders currently depend on behavioral, symptomatic characterization. Defining genetic contributions to disease risk allows for biological, mechanistic understanding but is challenged by genetic complexity, polygenicity, and the lack of a cohesive neurobiological model to interpret findings. The transcriptome represents a quantitative phenotype that provides biological context for understanding the molecular pathways disrupted in major psychiatric disorders. RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) in a large cohort of cases and controls can advance our knowledge of the biology disrupted in each disorder and provide a foundational resource for integration with genomic and genetic data.

Spatiotemporal transcriptomic divergence across human and macaque brain development


Improved understanding of how the developing human nervous system differs from that of closely related nonhuman primates is fundamental for teasing out human-specific aspects of behavior, cognition, and disorders. The shared and unique functional properties of the human nervous system are rooted in the complex transcriptional programs governing the development of distinct cell types, neural circuits, and regions. However, the precise molecular mechanisms underlying shared and unique features of the developing human nervous system have been only minimally characterized. We generated complementary tissue-level and single-cell transcriptomic datasets from up to 16 brain regions covering prenatal and postnatal development in humans and rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), a closely related species and the most commonly studied nonhuman primate. We created and applied TranscriptomeAge and TempShift algorithms to age-match developing specimens between the species and to more rigorously ...

Integrative functional genomic analysis of human brain development and neuropsychiatric risks


The brain is responsible for cognition, behavior, and much of what makes us uniquely human. The development of the brain is a highly complex process, and this process is reliant on precise regulation of molecular and cellular events grounded in the spatiotemporal regulation of the transcriptome. Disruption of this regulation can lead to neuropsychiatric disorders. The regulatory, epigenomic, and transcriptomic features of the human brain have not been comprehensively compiled across time, regions, or cell types. Understanding the etiology of neuropsychiatric disorders requires knowledge not just of endpoint differences between healthy and diseased brains but also of the developmental and cellular contexts in which these differences arise. Moreover, an emerging body of research indicates that many aspects of the development and physiology of the human brain are not well recapitulated in model organisms, and therefore it is necessary that neuropsychiatric disorders be understood in the broader context of the developing and adult human brain. Here we describe the generation and analysis of a variety of genomic data modalities at the tissue and single-cell levels, including transcriptome, DNA methylation, and histone modifications across multiple brain regions ranging in age from embryonic development through adulthood. We observed a widespread transcriptomic transition beginning during late fetal development and consisting of sharply decreased regional differences. This reduction coincided with increases in the transcriptional signatures of mature neurons and the expression of genes associated with dendrite development, synapse development, and neuronal activity, all of which were temporally synchronous across neocortical areas, as well as myelination and oligodendrocytes, which were asynchronous. Moreover, genes including MEF2C, SATB2, and TCF4, with genetic associations to multiple brain-related traits and disorders, converged in a small number of modules exhibiting spatial or spatiotemporal specificity. We generated and applied our dataset to document transcriptomic and epigenetic changes across human development and then related those changes to major neuropsychiatric disorders. These data allowed us to identify genes, cell types, gene coexpression modules, and spatiotemporal loci where disease risk might converge, demonstrating the utility of the dataset and providing new insights into human development and disease.