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Elon Musk Says Neuralink Brain Implant Could Cure Depression And Addiction

Billionaire Elon Musk announced that the brain implant one of his companies is working on could cure mental illnesses like depression or addiction.

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(TMU) – In a series of tweets this week, the eccentric billionaire Elon Musk announced that the brain implant one of his companies is working on could cure mental illnesses like depression or addiction. Musk called the breakthrough both “great and terrifying,” and implied that nearly all of our mental processes are open to influence, considering that they are all nothing more than electrical impulses.

Musk announced that new details about the Neuralink project would be coming on August 28th and Twitter user Pranay Pathole asked about what the technology may be capable of.

“Can Neuralink be used to retrain the part of the brain which is responsible for causing addiction or depression? It’d be great if Neuralink can be used for something like addiction/ depression,” he asked, according to the Independent.

Musk replied, “For sure. This is both great and terrifying. Everything we’ve ever sensed or thought has been electrical signals. The early universe was just a soup of quarks and leptons. How did a very small piece of the universe start to think of itself as sentient?”

Musk has made similar claims in previous interviews. During his interview on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, Musk said that this device could allow humans to communicate telepathically.

“You wouldn’t need to talk. You would be able to communicate very quickly and with far more precision,” he said.

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Musk’s assertions are controversial, but there are many scientists making the same predictions. According to a report published by the Royal Society of Science in 2019, neural interfaces could potentially allow people to communicate silently by reading each other’s minds.

“People could become telepathic to some degree, able to converse not only without speaking but without words – through access to each other’s thoughts at a conceptual level. Not only thoughts, but sensory experiences, could be communicated from brain to brain. Someone on holiday could beam a ‘neural postcard’ of what they are seeing, hearing, or tasting into the mind of a friend back home,” the report suggested.

However, this is a very advanced implementation of this technology that would come after significant development. First, the technology will be used to treat brain diseases like Parkinson’s and then scale up to more difficult problems from there.

Last year, Musk announced that his company was already having success with the implant during tests on animals. Human trials are already expected to begin this year.

The company will be inserting electrodes into human brains using a robot surgeon. The surgery will insert very fine threads into the brain, and the threads are covered in electrodes that will create a pathway for messages to and from the brain.

Musk said that the threads will work by recording the information being transmitted by neurons and synapses onto a tiny sensor, which can then be integrated with special software. He then revealed that the team has been testing the invention on primates, and were able to successfully augment a monkey’s brain with this technology.

Musk says that this technology is far less invasive than similar brain-computer interfaces on the market, and he hopes that this could be used to cure a variety of different brain disorders. However, in theory, this device can be integrated with artificial intelligence in a way where people could possibly “upload” things to their brain, kind of like how Neo in “The Matrix” learned Kung Fu from a computer.

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‘We Are Going To Have Famines of Biblical Proportions in 2021,’ UN Food Agency Warns

Elias Marat

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The head of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has delivered a stark message to the world: huge populations across the globe are facing severe “famines of biblical proportions” in the near future due to the coronavirus pandemic.

WFP head David Beasley has warned for the past several months that due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and accompanying lockdowns, nations in the developing world are faced with devastating famine and mass starvation unless action is finally taken.

However, with countries in the developed Global North facing their own budget crises and sharp economic downturns due to the ongoing health emergency, funding for the WFP that was previously available to help alleviate hunger and avert global famine won’t be available in 2021.

Speaking to The Associated Press, Beasley noted that his agency’s staffers regularly risk their lives feeding millions of hungry people in refugee camps, conflict zones, and the sites of natural disasters, but the current global crisis makes it important for him  to send “a message to the world that it’s getting worse out there … (and) that our hardest work is yet to come.”

In April, Beasley delivered a similarly urgent message to the U.N. Security Council, where he remarked that despite the breakout of the coronavirus pandemic, the world also stood  “on the brink of a hunger pandemic” that could see “multiple famines of biblical proportions” within months if critical action wasn’t taken.

And with the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020 being awarded to the World Food Program last month for its vital work providing alleviating mass hunger and boosting food security in conflict zones, Beasley has been struggling to use the win to break through the news cycle and remind people of “the travesty that we’re facing around the world.”

“We were able to avert [famine] in 2020,” Beasley said, adding that the WFP needs further funding or “we are going to have famines of biblical proportions in 2021.” 

The agency is currently hoping that it can get an additional $15 billion for the next year to deal with the growing scope of the crisis.

“If I could get that coupled with our normal money, then we avert famine around the world,” he said. 

World leaders must be prepared for the looming disaster as well as the critical role the WFP plays. As the organization says: “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”

In April, Beasley warned that about 135 million people faced “crisis levels of hunger or worse” in 2020 and that the number could rise by 130 million may be pushed to the brink of starvation by next year. However, on Wednesday he told AP that the number of people facing severe, crisis-level hunger had already risen to 270 million.

He added that three dozen countries could experience critical levels of hunger or famine if the WFP isn’t given the funding it requires.

According to a joint analysis by WFP and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, these countries include Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Lebanon, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somali, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and Yemen.

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Researchers: Microbots Will Soon Enter Human Colons to Deliver Medical Payloads

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Calling it “rough terrain,” a team of researchers at Purdue University is exploring the insides of a living colon like never before, using microscopic robots the width of a few follicles of hair. Perhaps most incredibly, the anal bots require no batteries and are powered via an external electromagnetic field.

Scientists have long believed the use of microbots (and perhaps someday even nanotechnology) inside the human body could bring about a revolution in medical diagnostic abilities and drug delivery. Mechanical engineers at Purdue believe they have passed a critical first test in this journey by creating tiny robots that are controlled remotely and can efficiently deliver a payload without inflaming any tissue reactions in the notoriously sensitive colonic region.

Biomeedical engineer Luis Solorio described one of the challenges the team faced:

“Moving a robot around the colon is like using the people-walker at an airport to get to a terminal faster. Not only is the floor moving, but also the people around you. In the colon, you have all these fluids and materials that are following along the path, but the robot is moving in the opposite direction. It’s just not an easy voyage.”

Mechanical engineer David Cappelleri, also from Purdue, says the tiny robot is controlled magnetically while being monitored through ultrasound imaging.

“When we apply a rotating external magnetic field to these robots, they rotate just like a car tire would to go over rough terrain. The magnetic field also safely penetrates different types of mediums, which is important for using these robots in the human body.”

So far, the team has experimented only on live anesthetized mice and pig colons. Scaling up could be a challenge, says associate professor Craig Goergen, who points out that while the colon is a good entry point for this type of microscopic robotic research, the terrain can present some tough sledding.

“Moving up to large animals or humans may require dozens of robots, but that also means you can target multiple sites with multiple drug payloads.”

As outlined in the team’s paper, which was published in Micromachines, tests on payload delivery involved the microbots being marked with fluorescein dye in a saline vial; they imitated drug delivery mechanisms by steadily dispatching the dye over a period of time. These tests were conducted outside of the mice and pig colons.

The researchers say the tiny robots are expelled from the body via regular waste elimination. While the research is promising, scientists say coordinating multiple microbots for use inside a human body is still years off. However, the implications for such a procedure are huge.

“From a diagnostic perspective, these microrobots might prevent the need for minimally invasive colonoscopies by helping to collect tissue,” adds Goergen. “Or they could deliver payloads without having to do the prep work that’s needed for traditional colonoscopies.”

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Scientists Genetically Engineer Meat With Plant Nutrients

Justin MacLachlan

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Researchers at Tufts University have created a way for health-conscious meat lovers to get plant nutrients when chowing down on a juicy steak. The landmark historic study was published in the journal Metabolic Engineering. The scientists genetically engineered cow muscle cells to produce the same nutrients found in plants, including beta carotene.

“Cows don’t have any of the genes for producing beta carotene,” says lead author Andrew Stout in a press release. “We engineered cow muscle cells to produce this and other phytonutrients, which in turn allows us to impart those nutritional benefits directly onto a cultured meat product in a way that is likely infeasible through animal transgenics and conventional meat production.”

The study authors also discovered that through this process there was a lack of cancer-causing agents in the meat. “We saw a reduction in lipid oxidation levels when we cooked a small pellet of these cells when they were expressing and producing this beta carotene,” Stout reports.

Stout says that there is a compelling argument that genetically modified meat with plant proteins could reduce the risk of cancer. “I think that there is a pretty compelling argument to be made that this could potentially reduce that risk.”

It’s important to note the researchers didn’t slaughter cows, instead they cultured meat, which is created by harvesting muscle cells from living cows. Because of this process, the group argues that they face one obstacle when it comes to putting the nutritious genetically modified meat on everyone’s plate, the cost.

“It will likely be challenging for cultured meat to be competitively priced with factory-farmed meat right out of the gate,” Stern Family Professor of Engineering David Kaplan says. “A value-added product which provides consumers with added health benefits may make them more willing to pay for a cultured meat product.”

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