Hacking Humans

This area of study has received $100 million in funding via Obama’s ten-year BRAIN Project, as well as a $1.3 billion commitment from Europe. The human brain is seen as the final frontier, and is being explored from every angle conceivable. The Dept. of Health & Human Services NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is part of a new Presidential focus aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain.

The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is part of a new Presidential focus aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. Long desired by researchers seeking new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, this picture will fill major gaps in our current knowledge and provide unprecedented opportunities for exploring exactly how the brain enables the human body to record, process, utilize, store, and retrieve vast quantities of information, all at the speed of thought.




Intelligent dust particles embedded in the brain could form an entirely new form of brain-machine interface, say engineers.



In 2012, the CSC was awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) a $6.1 million dollar research grant to study the neurobiology of narrative comprehension, validate narrative theories and explore the connection between narrative and persuasion. This groundbreaking research study will employ multi-modal neuroimaging, combining the temporal resolution of EEG with the spatial resolution of fMRI. The project seeks to validate narrative theories that to date have rested on interpretive approaches, rather than empirical, neurophysiological study. In so doing, the project aims to discover the neural network(s) involved in narrative comprehension and persuasion, and to come to a further understanding of how elements of existing narrative theories can induce or disrupt narrative understanding by the presence or absence of those structural components of narrative.



BOSTON, October 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Claritas Genomics, together with partners Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), announced today that the Veterans Administration (VA) has awarded Claritas a contract to sequence the exomes of 18,000 military veterans over the next 12 months, one of the largest sequencing projects ever in the US. The project is the first step in the VA’s Million Veteran Program (MVP), which will ultimately sequence 1 million veterans and establish one of the largest databases of genetic, lifestyle, and health information. This vast and well-characterized database will enable research and, in the future, lead to improved treatments in a variety of diseases such as diabetes, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder, and will be a resource that could transform healthcare for future generations. Claritas Genomics is supported by Life Technologies, which brings its Ion Proton™ sequencing technology, Alvarez and Associates, which is providing technical support and Lockheed Martin, which is applying its expertise in data security to manage the large amounts of data that will be generated.



One recently developed method for gene transfer that has the potential to address many of these shortcomings is the use of human artificial chromosomes (HACs). HACs possess several ideal properties, including very large DNA delivery capacities, stable, episomal maintenance within the cell, and lack of immunogenicity. Additionally, HACs can be designed to contain specific DNA sequences, such as integration sites, making them ideal for the creation of a completely engineerable platform. Although HACs show significant potential as a gene delivery vehicle, several technical hurdles remain that have prevented wide adoption of the technology. First, while HACs have the capacity to contain extremely large segments of DNA (potentially up to or surpassing 1,000,000 bp), currently molecular biology techniques are limiting in the amount of DNA that can be inserted into a DNA vector. It is typically difficult to insert more than 20,000 bp of DNA into a vector, negating much of the advantage that HACs possess as a delivery platform. Second, few selectable markers exist that are suitable for use in human cell lines, limiting the ability to screen for insertion or maintenance of the delivery platform. Third, methods utilized to transfer HACs between cell lines for vector delivery are extremely technically challenging, requiring highly specialized knowledge in order to be able to work with existing HAC vectors.

This solicitation is focused on improving the utility of HACs as a DNA delivery platform by developing technologies to address several key technical hurdles associated with current HAC vectors. These includes development of new selectable metabolic markers suitable for use in human cell lines, new high-fidelity methods for inserting DNA constructs at least 50,000 bp in length into defined genomic loci, and new methodologies for facile intercellular genome transplantation. A successful technology will be able to integrate into existing HAC vectors and will be capable of being readily transitioned to academic, government, and commercial researchers, all of whom rely on the ability to deliver DNA to mammalian cell lines.




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