Index – Technology – Science – The computer of the future can be built from human brain cells

The research team describes their plan for “organic intelligence” in the journal Frontiers in Science.

Computing and artificial intelligence are the engines of the technological revolution, but they have reached their limit. Bioinformatics is a great opportunity to compress and increase the efficiency of computing power to overcome our current technological limitations

– said Thomas Hartung, a professor of environmental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Whiting School of Engineering, who is leading the research.

For nearly two decades, scientists have used microorganisms, lab-grown tissues that resemble fully-developed organs, to experiment with kidneys, lungs, and other organs without resorting to human or animal experiments.

Recently, Hartung and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University worked on brain organoids, dot-sized balls containing neurons that promise to support basic functions like learning and memory, he wrote. on his website the university.

This could revolutionize research into how the human brain works. Because we can start to game the system and do things that we cannot do with human minds for ethical reasons

Hartung said.

In 2012, Hartung began growing brain cells and assembling them into functional organoids using cells from human skin samples reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell-like state. Each organelle contains about 50,000 cells, about the size of the nervous system of a fruit fly. Now he envisions building a futuristic computer out of such brain organelles.

It will take a long time to get the technology up and running

Hartung said computers with such “biological hardware” could begin to reduce the power consumption needs of supercomputers, which are becoming increasingly unsustainable.

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Although computers can process mathematical operations involving numbers and data faster than humans, the human brain is much smarter at making complex logical decisions, such as distinguishing between a dog and a cat.

The brain still cannot be bypassed by modern computers. Frontier, Kentucky’s newest supercomputer, is $600 million, 6,800 square feet. Just this past June, it surpassed the computing capacity of a single human brain for the first time — but it uses a million times more energy

Hartung said.

According to Hartung, it could take decades for organic intelligence to become as smart as a mouse. However, he predicts that with more brain organelles being produced and trained with artificial intelligence, the time will come for biocomputers that can provide superior computing speed, processing power, data efficiency, and storage capabilities.

Organoid intelligence could also revolutionize pharmacological research for disorders of neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration — said Lena Smirnova, assistant professor of environmental health and engineering sciences at Johns Hopkins University, co-leader of the studies.

We want to compare brain organoids from typically developed donors with brain organoids from autistic donors. The tools we have developed in the direction of biocomputing are the same ones that allow us to understand the changes in neural networks that characterize autism without having to use animals or study patients. In this way, we can understand the underlying mechanisms, and why patients have cognitive problems

Smirnova said.

In order to assess the ethical implications of working with organic intelligence, the research team included a diverse consortium of scientists, bioethicists, and members of the public.

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(Cover photo: Thomas Hartung. Photo: Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service/Getty Images)