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Sci-TechA New Field of Computing: Powered by Human Brain Cell: “Organoid Intelligence”

A New Field of Computing: Powered by Human Brain Cell: “Organoid Intelligence”

A New Field of Computing: Researchers at Johns Hopkins lay the foundation for a new science called “organoid intelligence.”

A “biocomputer” powered by human brain cells might be created during our lifetime, claim researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The potential of modern computing is anticipated to be greatly increased by this technology, as well as new fields of study.

An article that was recently released in the journal Frontiers in Science described the team’s strategy towards “organoid intelligence.”

The work is being led by Thomas Hartung, a professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Whiting School of Engineering. “Computing and artificial intelligence have been driving the technology revolution but they are reaching a ceiling,” he said. In order to surpass our current technical limitations, “biocomputing is an enormous effort of compacting processing power and enhancing its efficiency.”

Without using human or animal testing, scientists have been studying kidneys, lungs, and other organs for almost 20 years using microscopic organoids, lab-made tissue that resembles fully grown organs. In more recent years, Johns Hopkins researchers Hartung and others have been experimenting with brain organoids, spheres the size of a pen-dot that include neurons and other components that show promise for sustaining fundamental mental processes like learning and memory.

A New Field of Computing:
A New Field of Computing

A New Field of Computing:

According to Hartung, “this opens up research on how the human brain functions.” “Because you can start gaming the system and doing things that are morally wrong to do with human brains,” the speaker explains.

In 2012, Hartung used cells from human skin samples that had been reprogrammed into an embryonic stem cell-like condition to start growing and assembling brain cells into functioning organoids.

Each organoid has 50,000 cells, or roughly the same number as the nervous system of a fruit fly. He is now thinking of using these brain organoids to create a futuristic computer.

In the coming ten years, computers powered by this “biological hardware” might start to reduce the unsustainable energy demands of supercomputing, according to Hartung. Human brains are significantly more capable of forming complicated logical judgments, such as differentiating a dog from a cat, even though computers perform computations involving numbers and data more quickly than they do.

A New Field of Computing
A New Field of Computing

Modern computers still cannot compete with the brain, according to Hartung. The newest supercomputer in Kentucky, called Frontier, costs $600 million and occupies 6,800 square feet. It didn’t surpass the processing power of a single human brain until June of last year, but it did so while using a million times more energy.

According to Hartung, it may take decades before organoid intelligence can power a system with the intellect of a mouse. Yet he envisions a future in which biocomputers enable higher computing speed, processing power, data efficiency, and storage capacity by increasing the generation of brain organoids and teaching them with artificial intelligence.

Until we succeed in creating something akin to any kind of computer, it will take decades, according to Hartung. But it will be more harder if we don’t start developing financial programs for this.

According to Lena Smirnova, a Johns Hopkins assistant professor of environmental health and engineering and the co-leader of the study, organoid intelligence may also transform medication testing research for neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegeneration.

We want to contrast the brain organoids from donors who are usually developed with those from donors who have autism, said Smirnova. “The tools we are developing for biological computing are the same tools that will allow us to understand changes in neuronal networks specific for autism, without using animals or gaining access to patients, so we can understand the underlying mechanisms of why patients have these cognitive issues and impairments.”

A wide group of scientists, bioethicists, and members of the public have been integrated into the team to evaluate the ethical ramifications of working with organoid intelligence.

Reference: “Organoid intelligence (OI): the new frontier in biocomputing and intelligence-in-a-dish,” by Lena Smirnova, Brian S. Caffo, David H. Gracias, Qi Huang, Itzy E. Morales Pantoja, Bohao Tang, Donald J. Zack, Cynthia A. Berlinicke, J. Lomax Boyd, Timothy D. Harris, Erik C. Johnson, Brett J. Kagan, Jeffrey Ka


Brian S. Caffo, David H. Gracias, Qi Huang, Itzy E. Morales Pantoja, Bohao Tang, Timothy DHarris, Erik C. Johnson, Jeffrey Kahn, Barton L. Paulhamus, Jesse Plotkin, Alexander S. Szalay, Joshua T. Vogelstein, and Paul F. Worley were among the Johns Hopkins authors.

Alysson R. Muotri of the University of California, San Diego; Brett J. Kagan of Cortical Laboratories; and Jens C. Schwamborn of the University of Luxembourg were additional authors.


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