Science: Injecting Human Cells Into Mice Brains Makes Them Smarter

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Science: Injecting Human Cells Into Mice Brains Makes Them Smarter

A single mouse brain can be made four times smarter when injected with human stem cells. Perhaps Pinky and the Brain wasn't as far off as we thought.

Mice intelligence has long been the subject of scientific experiments, but it's pretty rare that we've considered upgrading their brains, Pinky and the Brain style. As it turns out, not only is that possible to do, it's actually pretty easy: All you have to do is inject human cells into their brains.

It starts with astrocytes, a type of glial cell that supports and protects neurons in the brain, and is essential for conscious thought. Both humans and mice have them, although human astrocytes are much larger and have 100 times as many tendrils, which coordinate electrical signals across synapses. But when you transplant immature glial cells from a human fetus into a mouse brain, they grow into human astrocytes that quickly replace those of the mice.

"We could see the human cells taking over the whole space," said Steve Goldman of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. "It seemed like the mouse counterparts were fleeing to the margins."

To be clear, the mouse brain isn't vastly transformed by this process; it's just filled with human astrocytes instead of those from mice. But most importantly, it has a pronounced effect on their intelligence. Standard tests for memory and cognition showed the mice were now up to four times better at remembering details than a non-altered control group. "These were whopping effects," Goldman continued. "We can say they were statistically and significantly smarter than control mice."

Goldman's research already showed that mature astrocytes from humans had a similar effect, but a limited one, since they were unable to divide and multiply. But the immature cells grow until they've completely filled any available space in a mouse's brain, stopped only when it literally reaches the physical limits.

Outside of simply making mice more intelligent, these kinds of tests can be used to make human brains more resistant to diseases like multiple sclerosis. Although if anyone's worried that this research will lead to mice trying to take over the world, Goldman assures us that's not about to happen. "This does not provide the animals with additional capabilities that could in any way be ascribed or perceived as specifically human," he explained. "Rather, the human cells are simply improving the efficiency of the mouse's own neural networks. It's still a mouse."

That said, Goldman has decided not to conduct this research on monkeys, presumably to avoid a full-blown Planet of the Apes scenario.

Source: New Scientist

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Fascinating... I wonder if this procedure has any effect on the offspring of the mice thus changed? Or is it only effective in the mice that receive the operation? Either way, it's a fascinating development. I wonder if the cells would enhance a pig's brain too- they are supposed to be quite clever animals. I wonder what effect, if any, it might have across a bigger special divide, like on crocodiles? Crocodiles are already quite clever animals as well. Or maybe cuttlefish?

I know that they won't suddenly become human like, or on our 'level' or anything, but the right boosts, prolonged over a steady time period, combined with the right stimulation/need for survival that breeds true, well, they might become their own kind of intelligent, you know?

If it is just a matter of exchanging innate brain cells with a more efficient design...
Does any animal contain a "better" brain cell design than humans?

Design babies here we come..

What do you mean it's just another term for eugenics??

Considering how curious octopi and cuttlefish tend to be, just imagine what you'd get if you added a level of sapience that'd be comparable to a human's...

Cephalopod marine researchers. That'd be an awesome sci-fi treatment right there, like a post-Planet of the Apes setup where pessimism is exchanged for a more positive outlook on things.

Dolphins. Can we do them next? They may learn to communicate more efficiently with us so we can form a beautiful alliance while they share knowledge of the sea with us, we share knowledge of the land with them.

...I can dream at least.

The important thing to keep in mind here is that we shouldnt do this experiment on creatures with opposable thumbs. That will be our downfall!

the December King:
Fascinating... I wonder if this procedure has any effect on the offspring of the mice thus changed? Or is it only effective in the mice that receive the operation?

Unless this procedure somehow changed the reproductive cells of the mice, then no. The offspring of these mice won't be any smarter than any other mouse that hasn't been enhanced as such.

Now that I think about it though, what would happen if these stem cells were injected at some point during a mouse's fetal development?

Ultimately, this is just another of the many examples of the amazing things stem cells can do and why it's ridiculous that we aren't funding it.

What would happen if we added brain cells to a mouse fe-

immortalfrieza:

Now that I think about it thougbh, what would happen if these stem cells were injected at some point during a mouse's fetal development?.

*angrily rips up post* You win this round, ninja!

Vendor-Lazarus:
If it is just a matter of exchanging innate brain cells with a more efficient design...
Does any animal contain a "better" brain cell design than humans?

Design babies here we come..

What do you mean it's just another term for eugenics??

If I'm reading this one right though, the beauty of it is it can probably be applied to adults; it's not a manipulation of the genome, it's the introduction of fetal human cells into mouse brains, albeit pups. The next stage would be to find out what reaction adult mice and then elderly adult mice have to the same treatment. If it ever does have any application in humans, I imagine it would be in the treatment of specific diseases or as part of an anti-senescence regime for older people.

As for the whole "Ermagerd genetic engineering is eugenics! I know 'cause I saw Gattaca like two times." reaction a lot of folk have to this kind of research; meh. "Designer babies" might have been in danger of becoming a thing a few years ago, but between the obvious ethical issues(a fetus evidently can't give consent) and the fact we're making great strides towards using artificial/modified retroviruses to modify the genome of adults(it possibly won't happen during my lifetime, but it's almost certainly going to be possible at some point) makes most of the hysteria surrounding genetic engineering in humans baseless. I imagine that in the event manipulation of the human genome ever became part of common medical practice, prenatal applications will likely be limited to correction of serious genetic diseases, with any advantage-giving "enhancement" treatments being available only to adults who've mostly completed brain development(21+ probably).

I can't wait personally, I just wish I'd been born a decade or so later than I actually was, I'd have a much higher chance of being able to take advantage of life extension and commercial space travel.

That's pretty cool, though it makes me wonder if this sort of thing will lead up to where we humans will end up sharing the planet with fully-sentient animals.

Maybe a century later, our grandkids will be having a sentient fox for a next door neighbor Animal Crossing style. Or something like that.

I say bring on the smart mice. Snakes and spiders have had it too easy and... no. Lets keep the dumb mice, last thing we need are clever snakes and spiders.

Ark of the Covetor:

Vendor-Lazarus:
If it is just a matter of exchanging innate brain cells with a more efficient design...
Does any animal contain a "better" brain cell design than humans?

Design babies here we come..

What do you mean it's just another term for eugenics??

If I'm reading this one right though, the beauty of it is it can probably be applied to adults; it's not a manipulation of the genome, it's the introduction of fetal human cells into mouse brains, albeit pups. The next stage would be to find out what reaction adult mice and then elderly adult mice have to the same treatment. If it ever does have any application in humans, I imagine it would be in the treatment of specific diseases or as part of an anti-senescence regime for older people.

As for the whole "Ermagerd genetic engineering is eugenics! I know 'cause I saw Gattaca like two times." reaction a lot of folk have to this kind of research; meh. "Designer babies" might have been in danger of becoming a thing a few years ago, but between the obvious ethical issues(a fetus evidently can't give consent) and the fact we're making great strides towards using artificial/modified retroviruses to modify the genome of adults(it possibly won't happen during my lifetime, but it's almost certainly going to be possible at some point) makes most of the hysteria surrounding genetic engineering in humans baseless. I imagine that in the event manipulation of the human genome ever became part of common medical practice, prenatal applications will likely be limited to correction of serious genetic diseases, with any advantage-giving "enhancement" treatments being available only to adults who've mostly completed brain development(21+ probably).

I can't wait personally, I just wish I'd been born a decade or so later than I actually was, I'd have a much higher chance of being able to take advantage of life extension and commercial space travel.

Yeah, I noticed that it wasn't done as genetic engineering but replacing actual brain cells.
The question that is forefront in my mind then is what kind (if any) damage is being done to the mouse's memory and brain function or if they just integrate and take over the original function of existing brain cells.
If they replace and take over without incurring any negative effects, imagine the revolution for treating Alzheimer's for example (as you mentioned anti-senescence regimes which such diseases are a hot topic of.)

I'm actually for tinkering with the human body plan, be it genetic,prosthetic or cybernetic improvements.
I would just want it to be available for everyone, so that such classes so feared would not emerge.
Starting with introducing it to those who are in acute need seems good but I'm not sure how to avoid it being profiteered upon in the general populace.

You mentioned that fetuses can't consent, which is very valid, but what about administering an improvement to yourself that what alter your future babies?
Would that fall under consent or not? (just an idle thought)

About being born a decade "or so" (I'm thinking a bit more)...You and me both, pal!

Because that was a problem that needed solving.

Flowers for Algernon, anybody?

Rats of NIMH, perhaps?

Slightly off the topic, has anybody heard about the experiment of injecting baby cells into mice to reverse aging? That one was mentioned to me over Thanksgiving. It's very interesting.

Why did you use Pinky and the Brain for this article?

OT: Now, as soon as we have discovered the secret to applying these techniques to and enhancing the human brain I shall take over the world!

For some humans it would probably also work the other way around.

Now if only we were to test this on the scientists then we could save those mice a lot of suffering. Or republicans, I guess that works too.

Vendor-Lazarus:

Yeah, I noticed that it wasn't done as genetic engineering but replacing actual brain cells.
The question that is forefront in my mind then is what kind (if any) damage is being done to the mouse's memory and brain function or if they just integrate and take over the original function of existing brain cells.
If they replace and take over without incurring any negative effects, imagine the revolution for treating Alzheimer's for example (as you mentioned anti-senescence regimes which such diseases are a hot topic of.)

I'm actually for tinkering with the human body plan, be it genetic,prosthetic or cybernetic improvements.
I would just want it to be available for everyone, so that such classes so feared would not emerge.
Starting with introducing it to those who are in acute need seems good but I'm not sure how to avoid it being profiteered upon in the general populace.

You mentioned that fetuses can't consent, which is very valid, but what about administering an improvement to yourself that what alter your future babies?
Would that fall under consent or not? (just an idle thought)

About being born a decade "or so" (I'm thinking a bit more)...You and me both, pal!

I wouldn't be too optimistic about this being able to replace functioning brain cells...
technically, that is what happened, but they are glial cells, rather than neurons.
According to what I've heard about brain function, neurons are what actually does the thinking, while glial cells are support structures, which basically exist to keep the neurons alive and functioning.

So this hasn't strictly speaking replaced any cell the mice were using to think with, but merely the support cells. As such it probably hasn't directly affected their existing memories and such. (But probably has altered their thought processes, a little, given the improvements in intelligence...)

CrystalShadow:
Snipped for space

I knew that when I read the OP , then it just..sort of evaporated from my mind. heh.

You are of course entirely correct as far as I'm aware.
Neurons are basically warehouses and glials are the roads.

Thanks for the correction! ,)

So my 'eat moar brains!' lifestyle now has a solid scientific basis. But hell, even if it didn't I don't think I could give it up.

lSHaDoW-FoXl:
Now if only we were to test this on the scientists then we could save those mice a lot of suffering. Or republicans, I guess that works too.

I presume injecting fetal (human) astrocytes into mice makes them more capable of reaction, I would assume that injecting, you know, HUMAN tissues into a human would increase their abilities as well, regardless of political leanings. In the mean time, these intelligent rodents can enjoy being able to figure out mazes and getting peanut butter faster. I wonder if it can also be passed down genetically?

If it means the Science people can Science Harder, I actually could see a reasonable argument for experimentation.

The only question this raises is if the intelligent mice community will build a colony on Mars before the Humans, or if they go straight for Pluto.

Brian Tams:
What would happen if we added brain cells to a mouse fe-

immortalfrieza:

Now that I think about it thougbh, what would happen if these stem cells were injected at some point during a mouse's fetal development?.

*angrily rips up post* You win this round, ninja!

Since the cells being transferred are already somewhat differentiated (they're "immature glial cells") they would be unlikely to revert to a form that could be involved in the reporductive pathways. Even if they were, they'd still be human cells, carrying human genetic code that would be completely incompatible with murine reproductive cells from the other prospective parent. No super-smart hybrid species creation going on here...!

On the other hand, if you can identify exactly what makes human glial cells / astrocytes different from mouse ones, and then introduce the necessary changes in mice to make them more similar, THEN you might be able to make the increased mental capacity heritable...

...and I for one welcome our new pink-eyed, twitchy-nosed overlords.

(ooh - just made a Hitchhikers Guide connection!)

Please don't inject mouse brain cells into humans to make them dumber, humans are already dumb enough.

It's quite interesting how this piece of news impresses me but would have made my five-year-old self roll his eyes and say "Well, duh! Anyone could have figured that out".

lSHaDoW-FoXl:
Now if only we were to test this on the scientists then we could save those mice a lot of suffering. Or republicans, I guess that works too.

Hilarious.

Personally I'd be happy to end animal testing for good; we should just round up anti-vaxxers, anti-vivisectionists, animal rights terrorists etc and conduct trials on them, then everyone's happy - their precious animals are no longer being "abused by the evil humanocentric scientific-industrial complex, maaaaaan", the general public are still kept safe from debilitating diseases, and scientists don't have to listen to their vacant bitching any more. Win, win, win.

So, can we make humans dumber by injecting mouse cells?

Oh great, Mice are already everywhere. The last thing we need is giving them the ability to organize. This is Planet of the Apes all over again.

I'd like to see this tech used on dogs. I personally feel, given our intense genetic manipulation of dogs over the centuries, and their innate genetic flexibility, that they are going to be the next confirmed sentient species, mostly because we're going to end up pushing them to that point. This would help advance that process a great deal I think. Which I personally feel is awesome.

On the human front, it's definitely got potential to deal with mental issues of age and decay, assuming the illness is related to these cells that are being replaced.

Fanghawk

Fanghawk:
Science: Injecting Human Cells Into Mice Brains Makes Them Smarter

That said, Goldman has decided not to conduct this research on monkeys, presumably to avoid a full-blown Planet of the Apes scenario.

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Why Planet of the Apes? This is The Secret of Nimh happening for real! This is LITERALLY the same! Best keep a close eye on farmers with abnormally large electricity bills.

i so want to hide a recorder in that lab repeating "gee brain, what do you want to do tonight?" every once in a while, just to mess with the researchers

I, for one, welcome our new mice overlords.

Does it say anywhere whether Disney was funding this project?

Ark of the Covetor:

lSHaDoW-FoXl:
Now if only we were to test this on the scientists then we could save those mice a lot of suffering. Or republicans, I guess that works too.

Hilarious.

Personally I'd be happy to end animal testing for good; we should just round up anti-vaxxers, anti-vivisectionists, animal rights terrorists etc and conduct trials on them, then everyone's happy - their precious animals are no longer being "abused by the evil humanocentric scientific-industrial complex, maaaaaan", the general public are still kept safe from debilitating diseases, and scientists don't have to listen to their vacant bitching any more. Win, win, win.

Looks like I made someone angry. Except, anti-vivisectionists and animal rights terrorists have some legitimate justification for their anger, or are you completely blind to the actual suffering that goes on completely unwarranted? I provide a better solution, and one with a more dumber, selfish, and downright vile population that legitimately deserves it. The fact that you even bother to list some people down as a response kind of makes my point. There clearly do exist some people that we can use as opposed to animals. And facetious nature aside, what comes to my mind are criminals. Not robbers and muggers, but the I mean ones that are legitimately guilty of downright heinous crimes - Sociopaths that commit murder because it gives them a legitimate thrill. I win. Saying that it's cruel to test on these people just acknowledges my point on the inhumanity of animal testing, and saying that it isn't provides an alternative to it.

"abused by the evil humanocentric scientific-industrial complex, maaaaaan"

You're not really being funny when you basically try and turn my remark against me (that's just lazy, dude) and then proceed to use a straw-man to represent me. Maaan? Do you honestly think I fit into that kind of group with the things I'm saying? Hippies would probably be more along the lines of "test on no one because it's mean" instead of legitimate anger and resentment that draw on this somewhat ironic form of retribution.

"scientists don't have to listen to their vacant bitching any more"

You don't see any legitimate basis for people to moan about animals being tested on for their entire lives? As opposed to people that have legitimate concerns and criticisms of an unethical practice you make a far greater example. Maybe after we fill you up with enough drugs you'll learn a thing or two about compassion.

Rex Dark:
So, can we make humans dumber by injecting mouse cells?

I think it's already been done, I can't imagine why else gamers would keep pre-ordering DLC.

ObserverStatus:

Rex Dark:
So, can we make humans dumber by injecting mouse cells?

I think it's already been done, I can't imagine why else gamers would keep pre-ordering DLC.

Unfortunately, they're the uninformed control group, not the experimental test subjects. You see, the whole thing was conducted with the control group, the uncontrolled group, and the experimental group. The control group never uses the internet to find out about product value, the uncontrolled group DOES surf the web for information, and the experimental group defends Ubisoft and EA from the rest of the internet.

What they were trying to prove here, I'm not sure, but grant money is grant money.

I'm quite glad that I read the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy before I read this, a massive chasm in my mind might have been formed.

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