On the way to “bio-computers” that work with human neurons?

Scientists from several disciplines are working on ” revolutionary biocomputers where three-dimensional cultures of brain cells, brain organoids, as ” biological hardware “. Her work was published in the magazine frontiers in science[1].

We call this new interdisciplinary field “Organoid Intelligence (IO)” said Professor Thomas Hartung of Johns Hopkins University. ” A community of top scientists has come together to develop this technology, which we believe will usher in a new era of fast, powerful, and efficient bioinformatics.. »

The brain superior to the computer?

While silicon-based computers are definitely better at numbers, brains are better at learning ‘ the professor stresses. And more energy efficient.

Brains also have an amazing capacity for storing information, estimated at 2,500 TB “, he adds. Gold, ” We’re reaching the physical limits of silicon-based computers because we can’t fit more transistors into a tiny chip. But the brain is wired very differently. It has about 100 billion neurons connected by more than 1015 connection points “. Make ” huge difference in performance compared to current technology.

On the design of biocomputers

To get “organoid intelligence,” the brain’s organoids need to be larger. From 50,000 cells they would have to count 10 million. Before then organizing them into interconnected networks to perform more complex calculations.

You also need to be able to “communicate” with them. So researchers are developing technologies to send them information and read what they “think”. ” We have developed a brain-computer interface device that is a kind of EEG cap for organoids “, explains Thomas Hartung.

“Complex” ethical questions

But making human brain organoids raises many ethical questions. Complex “.” Could they develop consciousness, even in a rudimentary form? (cf. research on brain organoids: a matter of conscience) Could they experience pain or suffering? And what rights would people have over the brain organoids made from their cells? »

Professor Hartung states that he wants “ Develop IO in an ethical and socially responsible way “.” We partnered with ethicists early on to establish an “integrated ethics” approachhe wants to calm down. All ethical issues are continuously evaluated by teams of scientists, ethicists and the public as the research progresses “.

[1] Smirnova, L. et al. (2023) Organoid intelligence (OI): the new frontier in biocomputing and intelligence-in-a-dish. frontiers in science. doi.org/10.3389/fsci.2023.1017235.

Source: Medical News, Emily Henderson (02/28/2023) – Photo: iStock

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