George Overmeire's blog

Dutch H+ Revival

(Via de Transcedo Website)
Het is al een tijdje wat stil bij Transcedo, de vereniging van transhumanisten in Nederland die ooit (in 1998) de eerste Transvision-bijeenkomst organiseerde.
Mogelijk gaat daarin binnenkort verandering komen: zaterdag 2 april komt een aantal transhumanisten bij elkaar in Den Haag om het Nederlands Transhumanisme weer nieuw leven in te blazen. een voorlopige agenda is hier te vinden.

Synthetic Biology Documentary

Via Kickstarter:

Synthetic Biology is a new approach to genetic engineering. It can make E. Coli bacteria smell like fresh rain, turn sunlight into gasoline, make concrete buildings heal themselves, or goats produce spider silk in their milk. These are strange technologies certainly, but these examples help demonstrate what is possible and already happening with the tools of synthetic biology.
The goal of this project is to provide an even-handed and engaging survey of current genetic engineering, and in particular, this emerging field of synthetic biology. While there is still some ambiguity about the precise definition, synthetic biology seems to always point at a new perspective in the field of genetic science. This new perspective comes from engineers turning their attention from other fields towards biological sciences and the structures of DNA. They see DNA as programmable code, cells as systems built of genetic circuits, and biology as a platform from which manufacturing systems can be created.
The film will follow the ten year history of this new idea and will explore the basic science of molecular biology, which allows for an understanding of how the technology works. This creates a framework for a look into how industrial technologies develop and mature, how scientific investigation is adapted by engineering, and what exactly the difference between science and engineering is. It also raises questions about how life is defined, where ethical boundaries ought to be established, and how controllable or wild nature really is.

New spinal implant will help people with paraplegia to exercise paralyzed limbs

Via ScienceBlog:

Engineers have developed a new type of microchip muscle stimulator implant that will enable people with paraplegia to exercise their paralysed leg muscles.
It is the first time that researchers have developed a device of this kind that is small enough to be implanted into the spinal canal and incorporates the electrodes and muscle stimulator in one unit. The implant is the size of a child’s fingernail.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) project is being led by Professor Andreas Demosthenous from University College London. It includes engineers from Freiburg University and the Tyndall Institute in Cork.
“The work has the potential to stimulate more muscle groups than is currently possible with existing technology because a number of these devices can be implanted into the spinal canal”, said Professor Andreas Demosthenous. “Stimulation of more muscle groups means users can perform enough movement to carry out controlled exercise such as cycling or rowing.”
The devices could also be used for a wide range of restorative functions such as stimulating bladder muscles to help overcome incontinence and stimulating nerves to improve bowel capacity and suppress spasms.

Lees verder op ScienceBlog.
Press release op Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC)

Elephants, jellyfish and robotic automation

Via Gizmag:

Festo, the automation company that designed the bionic penguin and its robotic stablemates – AirRay, AquaRay, AirJelly and AquaJelly – has found another natural model in its latest application of biomimicry – the elephant's trunk.
Festo's Bionic Learning Network research program focuses on mechatronic and bionic concepts using nature as a model. Here's a look back at the concepts created by the company in recent years along with the latest examples of how this approach is leading to improvements in industrial automation systems.

Lees meer op Gizmag.
Video's:
The Bionic Handling Assistant - "Deutscher Zukunftspreis 2010" en AquaJelly.

Stem cells turned injured rodents into mighty mice

Via NewsDaily:

Injecting stem cells into injured mice made their muscles grow back twice as big in a matter of days, creating mighty mice with bulky muscles that stayed big and strong for the rest of their lives, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.
If the same applies to humans, the findings could lead to new treatments for diseases that cause muscles to deteriorate, such as muscular dystrophy.
It may even help people resist the gradual erosion of muscle strength that comes with age, Bradley Olwin, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and colleagues reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
"This was a very exciting and unexpected result," Olwin, who worked on the study, said in a statement.
"We found that the transplanted stem cells are permanently altered and reduce the aging of the transplanted muscle, maintaining strength and mass."
Olwin's team experimented on young mice with leg injuries, injecting them with muscle stem cells taken from young donor mice.
Stem cells are unique in that they can constantly renew themselves, and form the basis of other specialized cells.
These cells not only repaired the injury, but they caused the treated muscle to increase in size by 170 percent.
Olwin's team had thought the changes would be temporary, but they lasted through the lifetime of the mice, which was about two years.

Lees verder:
Vergelijkbare artikelen op NewsDaily:

Researchers discover how to erase memory

Via PhysOrg.com:

Researchers working with mice have discovered that by removing a protein from the region of the brain responsible for recalling fear, they can permanently delete traumatic memories. Their report on a molecular means of erasing fear memories in rodents appears this week in Science Express.
“When a traumatic event occurs, it creates a fearful memory that can last a lifetime and have a debilitating effect on a person’s life,” says Richard L. Huganir, Ph.D., professor and director of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “Our finding describing these molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in that process raises the possibility of manipulating those mechanisms with drugs to enhance behavioral therapy for such conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Behavioral therapy built around “extinction training” in animal models has proven helpful in easing the depth of the emotional response to traumatic memories, but not in completely removing the memory itself, making relapse common.
Huganir and postdoctoral fellow Roger Clem focused on the nerve circuits in the amygdala, the part of the brain known to underly so-called fear conditioning in people and animals. Using sound to cue fear in mice, they observed that certain cells in the amygdala conducted more current after the mouse was exposed to a loud, sudden tone.

De maakbare mens

Transhumanisme komt steeds meer in de mainstream. Ging het tien jaar geleden nog over zaken waarbij ik aan de borreltafel hartelijk werd uitgelachen, inmiddels zijn sommige van die zaken al zo goed als realiteit, of komen in ieder geval zo dichtbij dat de lachers van toen zich zorgen gaan maken.
De VPRO heeft bijvoorbeeld op dit moment de serie "Labyrint" lopen, waarbij de toepassing van nanotechnologie op de geneeskunde breeduit wordt toegelicht.
De uitzending van 9 november a.s. bevat de televisie-premiere van een belangwekkende nieuwe 3D animatie inzake toekomstige medische nanotechnologie: de visualisatie van het (toekomstige) herstellingswerk aan een menselijke lichaamscel door een chromallocyt nanorobot. Deze zeer gedetailleerde animatie werd in hoge resolutie geproduceerd door de 3D animatoren van E-spaces N.V. Dit in rechtstreekse en diepgaande nano-technische samenwerking met Robert Freitas, de ontwerper van deze medische chromallocyt nanorobot en schrijver van de boeken "Nanomedicine", en onder de algemene leiding van Philippe Van Nedervelde.

De overheid probeert inmiddels vinger aan de pols te krijgen met een soort openbare raadpleging en een maatschappelijke dialoog rond het thema nanotechnologie en volksgezondheid & milieuveiligheid.

Zelf ben ik, zoals eerder vermeld, gevraagd om zitting te nemen in "De Kamer van Morgen", een denktank die de toepassingen van Human Enhancement voor het onderwijs wil bekijken, en twee dagen later, op 18 november 2010, neem ik deel aan het Volkskrant gesprek tijdens de "Meet the Future, science and technology Summit" in het World Forum in Den Haag. Het gaat hier om een discussie over het evenwicht tussen wetenschap en maakbaarheid. Nou ja, ik heb daar al eens over geschreven.

Tenslotte is op 20 november in de Zebrastraat te Gent, België de Dag van de Maakbare Mens, een dag over het brein, stamceldonatie, vruchtbaarheid, orgaandonatie, medicalisering, levenseinde en genetica. Sprekers zijn o.a. John Harris, Catherine Verfaillie, Wim Distelmans en Jacinta De Roeck.

The robot that reads your mind to train itself

Via BBC News:

Rajesh Rao is a man who believes that the best type of robotic helper is one who can read your mind.
In fact, he's more than just an advocate of mind-controlled robots; he believes in training them through the power of thought alone.
His team at the Neural Systems Laboratory, University of Washington, hopes to take brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to the next level by attempting to teach robots new skills directly via brain signals.
Robotic surrogates that offer paralyzed people the freedom to explore their environment, manipulate objects or simply fetch things has been the holy grail of BCI research for a long time.
Dr Rao's team began by programming a humanoid robot with simple behaviours which users could then select with a wearable electroencephalogram (EEG) cap that picked up their brain activity.
The brain generates what is known as a P300, or P3, signal involuntarily, each time it recognizes an object. This signal is caused by millions of neurons firing together in a synchronised fashion.
This has been used by many researchers worldwide to create BCI-based applications that allow users to spell a word, identify images, select buttons in a virtual environment and more recently, even play in an orchestra or send a Twitter message.

Lees meer...

Robot 'Hands' Write Without Fingers

Via Science:

Scientists have created a robotic arm that can do everything from serve drinks to draw pictures even though it has no digits.
Fingers and thumbs work perfectly well for humans, says Eric Brown, a physicist at the University of Chicago in Illinois. But on a robot they can be clumsy. The fingers slip. They grip too hard and break whatever they're trying to hold. And sometimes they don't grasp it at all. Then there are the complexities of manipulating 20-odd joints with a computer.
So Brown and his colleagues took a different tack. Their robotic hand, which they describe online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is a thin rubber sack filled with coffee grains or small glass spheres. When this hand comes in contact with an object, a small pipe sucks air from the sack, causing it to contract and mold to the object's shape. The contraction is small—a mere 1% change in volume–but was enough to grab most objects the researchers tested. "It's very simple to control," notes Brown. "You don't have all these joints."

Zie hier een video.

Austria's first 'bionic' man dies

Via The Sidney Morning Herald, 23-10-2010:

An Austrian man who became the first person outside the US to wear thought-powered "bionic" arms has died from injuries sustained in a car crash, the hospital where he was treated said.

Doctors at the Medical University of Graz said they switched off the life support machines of Christian Kandlbauer on Friday, October 22, after determining he was clinically brain dead.

Kandlbauer, who would have turned 23 next month, sustained severe head injuries when the specially modified car he was driving served off the road in the south east of Austria and crashed into a tree on October 19.
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The cause of the accident is not yet known, particularly whether the neurally-controlled arm-prostheses he had been fitted with might have played a role.

(...)

Kandlbauer was a "pioneer of a technology that will permit many people to resume their everyday lives".

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