AVATAR TECHNOLOGY DIGEST First results of 10-year digital brain project
Welcome to Avatar Technology Digest. And here are the top stories of the last week. As always we start our Digest with incredible news on Technology, Medical Cybernetics and Artificial Intelligence.
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1) Machines with artificial intelligence have shown quite an improvement in several aspects. For instance, they can play chess, compute complex mathematical problems and even identify pictures. Researchers from the University of Illinois did a study on the ConceptNet 4 version of the AI and they discovered that its IQ level is the same as that of a 4-year-old child.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created an intelligent machine called ConceptNet under its artificial intelligence program. The research team, chose an IQ test known as the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence. The IQ test is commonly used in schools across the United States and is designed to measure the level of intelligence in five key categories.
The ConceptNet scored a [mark] that is average for a 4-year-old child, but below average for 5- to 7-year-olds, concluded the researchers. The result was highly dependent on how the intelligent machine understood and interpreted the questions.
2) A controversial European neuroscience project “Blue Brain Project” aims to simulate the human brain in a supercomputer. It has published its first major result: a digital imitation of circuitry in a sandgrain-sized chunk of rat brain. The work models some 31,000 virtual brain cells connected by roughly 37 million synapses.
The goal of the Blue Brain Project, is to build a biologically-detailed computer simulation of the brain based on experimental data about neurons' 3D shapes, their electrical properties, and the ion channels and other proteins that different cell types typically produce.
Researchers who created the simulation said its digital neurons flicker with activity seen in real rat brains and replicate patterns of electrical behavior that are triggered, for example, when a rodent’s whiskers are touched.
The simulation draws on 20 years of measurements from rat brains and took a decade to turn into code that runs on an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer capable of solving billions of equations every 25 milliseconds.
3) Age-related macular degeneration could be treated by transplanting photoreceptors produced by the directed differentiation of stem cells, thanks to findings published today by Canadian researchers.
ARMD is a common eye problem caused by the loss of cones. The team of researches of the University of Montreal has developed a highly effective in vitro technique for producing light sensitive retina cells from human embryonic stem cells. The method has the capacity to differentiate 80% of the stem cells into pure cones. Within 45 days, the cones that we allowed to grow towards confluence spontaneously formed organized retinal tissue that was 150 microns thick. This has never been achieved before.
4) For years, scientists have been trying to manipulate pig organs so that they could be transplanted into the 8,000 humans waiting for a life saving transplant. So far, that hasn’t worked. But George Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of the biotech company eGenesis, hopes to change that. Earlier this week he announced that he and his colleagues had used the gene editing tool CRISPR to modify an unprecedented number of genes in pig embryos in order to make them easier to transplant into humans.
Church, and his startup company eGenesis, hope to begin implanting gene-edited pig embryos into mother pigs as soon as it is possible.
5) DNA is your blueprint, firmware, and operating system all rolled into one, so of course it’s really important for the code to be correct. But the nature of chemistry is that things sometimes go wrong at random. DNA breaks down over time, sometimes there are mistakes in transcription, and ultraviolet radiation and some chemicals can damage DNA. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015 awards three pioneering scientists who have mapped how several of these repair systems function at a detailed molecular level.
Now thanks Tomas Lindahl, Aziz Sancar, and Paul Modrich we have improved understanding of how our own cells work and repair damaged DNA. That, in turn, can help develop more effective medical treatments.
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