One of the greatest barriers to linking the artificial with the organic when it comes to thinking and processing is the difficulty in growing neurons, let alone grow neurons to order… until now.
“Swedish researchers have engineered an artificial neuron that can control the snapping of a living Venus flytrap, a brand new development that has implications for future research linking artificial, synthetic devices with biological systems such as brain-machine interfaces (think Elon Musk’s Neuralink) or bionic prosthetics.
“In a study published in Nature Communications on Tuesday, researchers from three Swedish universities constructed the neurons from polymers that can transport electrical signals to cells in the Venus flytrap that control the carnivorous plant’s mouth.
“‘We used Venus flytraps as a model system to demonstrate the biointegration of our artificial neurons,’ Simone Fabiano, lead study author and a researcher in organic nanoelectronics at Linköping University, told The Daily Beast in an email. ‘Venus flytraps are easy to handle, and as a first demonstration, they represented an easy choice.’”
“While these synthetic cells are quick, they aren’t quick enough. Fabiano said the frequency at which these neurons operate is on par with human sympathetic neurons (the ones that prep your body for fight or flight). Ideally, the team would like them to be faster, mimicking the frequency of the human neocortex, the part of the human brain thought to be responsible for thought, attention, perception and episodic memory.
“The next step is not only to get these artificial neurons to be faster but to extend them to other, more complex biological systems. They’re already looking to test out new versions in animal models.
“This development is a breakthrough in many ways, making melding organic with inorganic less a work of science fiction and more of a promising reality. Fabiano hopes these soft, biocompatible circuits will one day be incorporated into artificial intelligence, robotics, smart labels and even wearable technology to monitor health and wellness.”
Better living through science!
A little mood music: