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The CRISPR/Cas genome editing techniques, which I’ve written about previously were put to interesting use recently when  human stem cells were edited into Neanderthal stem cells and then grown into pea-sized “minibrains” that mimic the cortex of ancient Neanderthals.

Minibrains are organoids. Organoids are miniaturized and simplified versions of organs produced in vitro, that show realistic micro-anatomy. The science of organoids has expanded rapidly since the early 2010s, to create all kinds of organs besides brains, including intestines, livers, pancreata, testes, thyroids, thymic glands, stomachs tongues, kidneys and hearts.

Alysson Muotri, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) described how his group created these Neanderthal brain organoids at a UCSD conference last week, saying, “We’re trying to recreate Neanderthal minds.”

The Neanderthal minibrains differ from human ones in their shape and in their neuronal networks, including some that may have influenced the species’ ability to socialize.

Muotri, who has a stepson with autism noted that several of these differences resemble those that he has found studying neuronal development in children with autism. “In modern humans, these types of changes are linked to defects in brain development that are needed for socialization. If we believe that’s one of our advantages over Neanderthals, it’s relevant.”

When CRISPR/Cas genome editing was legalized in Britain in 2016, many were alarmed that edited humans might be born by 2017 and the next part of this story raises another potentially scary transhuman spectre.

Muotri has grown modern human minibrains to the stage where his team can detect their oscillating electrical signals, so they’re currently wiring the organoids to crab-shaped robots, hoping to study the ability of these organoids to learn to control the robots’ movements and then to have these robots compete with other robots controlled by Neanderthal minibrains. Eek.

Alexandra Bruce

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  • Hoo boy… Wait until that little Microbrain turns that tiny little crab into a 600 foot monster of a machine THEN WERE SCREWED Hopefully I won’t be here Either dead or Off planet, Either way I won’t be here and I WON’T help anyone once it gets to that point I already paid the price and everyone STILL KICKS ME IN THE TEETH SO

    NO WAY, No one is worth it, You lot are on your own I’m sick of trying to help only to be shunned and ridiculed, I stopped a giant cyborg army already from invading the world Yeah It sounds like a joke, Go on LAUGH but it’s the truth, I’ll be the one laughing when you’re all dead and I’m alive!

  • These ghoulish, “Dr. Frankenstein” like transhumanist experiments will not lead to anything good down the road. At some point, things will start to backfire.

    • Its hard to believe – are we talking about a brain in a jar, controlling a machine or something? Just where do we get neanderthal stem cells from? Kmart ? This “news” is so skimpy and so outrageous its probably fake news. I pray it is.And if its real the first impulse will be to weaponise it. God help us.

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