New Brain Implant Device Could Restore Function in Paralyzed Limbs

University of Cambridge Department of Engineering and Clinical Neurosciences

A brain implant that can restore arm and leg movements has been developed by British scientists to boost connections between neurons and the paralyzed limbs, offering hope to accident victims.

The device combines flexible electronics and human stem cells – the body’s ‘reprogrammable’ master cells – to better integrate with the nerve and drive limb function.

Previous attempts at using neural implants to restore limb function have mostly failed, as scar tissue tends to form around the electrodes over time, impeding the connection between the device and the nerve. By sandwiching a layer of muscle cells reprogrammed from stem cells between the electrodes and the living tissue in rats, the researchers found that the device integrated with the host’s body and the formation of scar tissue was prevented.

The cells survived on the electrode for the duration of the 28-day experiment, the first time this has been monitored over such a long period.

The researchers say that by combining two advanced therapies for nerve regeneration – cell therapy and bioelectronics – into a single device, they can overcome the shortcomings of both approaches, improving functionality and sensitivity.

“This was a high-risk endeavor, and I’m so pleased that it worked,” said Professor George Malliaras from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who co-led the research. “It’s one of those things that you don’t know whether it will take two years or ten before it works, and it ended up happening very efficiently.”

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“This interface could revolutionize the way we interact with technology,” said co-first author Amy Rochford, who worked on the professor’s team. “By combining living human cells with bioelectronic materials, we’ve created a system that can communicate with the brain in a more natural and intuitive way, opening up new possibilities for prosthetics, brain-machine interfaces, and even enhancing cognitive abilities.”

While extensive research and testing will be needed before it can be used in humans, the device is a promising development for amputees or those who’ve lost function in limbs. The results were reported this month in the journal Science Advances.

A huge challenge when attempting to reverse such injuries is the inability of neurons to regenerate and rebuild disrupted neural circuits.

“If someone has an arm or a leg amputated, for example, all the signals in the nervous system are still there, even though the physical limb is gone,” said Dr. Damiano Barone from Cambridge’s Department of Clinical Neurosciences, who co-led the research. “The challenge with integrating artificial limbs, or restoring function to arms or legs, is extracting the information from the nerve and getting it to the limb so that function is restored.”

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One way of addressing this problem is implanting a nerve in the large muscles of the shoulder and attaching electrodes to it. The problem with this approach is scar tissue forms around the electrode, plus it is only possible to extract surface-level information from the electrode.

To get better resolution, any implant for restoring function would need to extract much more information from the electrodes. And to improve sensitivity, the researchers wanted to design something that could work on the scale of a single nerve fibre, or axon.

“An axon itself has a tiny voltage,” said Barone. “But once it connects with a muscle cell, which has a much higher voltage, the signal from the muscle cell is easier to extract. That’s where you can increase the sensitivity of the implant.”

The researchers designed a biocompatible flexible electronic device that is thin enough to be attached to the end of a nerve. A layer of stem cells, reprogrammed into muscle cells, was then placed on the electrode. This is the first time that this type of stem cell, called an induced pluripotent stem cell, has been used in a living organism in this way.

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“These cells give us an enormous degree of control,” said Barone. “We can tell them how to behave and check on them throughout the experiment. By putting cells in between the electronics and the living body, the body doesn’t see the electrodes, it just sees the cells, so scar tissue isn’t generated.”

The Cambridge biohybrid device was implanted into the paralyzed forearm of the rats. The stem cells, which had been transformed into muscle cells prior to implantation, integrated with the nerves in the rat’s forearm. While the rats did not have movement restored to their forearms, the device was able to pick up the signals from the brain that control movement. If connected to the rest of the nerve or a prosthetic limb, the device could help restore movement.

The cell layer also improved the function of the device, by improving resolution and allowing long-term monitoring inside a living organism. The cells survived through the 28-day experiment: the first time that cells have been shown to survive an extended experiment of this kind.

The researchers say that their approach has multiple advantages over other attempts to restore function in amputees. In addition to its easier integration and long-term stability, the device is small enough that its implantation would only require keyhole surgery. Other neural interfacing technologies for the restoration of function in amputees require complex patient-specific interpretations of cortical activity to be associated with muscle movements, while the Cambridge-developed device is a highly scalable solution since it uses ‘off the shelf’ cells supplied by the University’s Kotter lab, which are owned by synthetic biology company

In addition to its potential for the restoration of function in people who have lost the use of a limb or limbs, the researchers say their device could also be used to control prosthetic limbs by interacting with specific axons responsible for motor control.

“This technology represents an exciting new approach to neural implants, which we hope will unlock new treatments for patients in need,” said co-first author Dr Alejandro Carnicer-Lombarte, also from the Department of Engineering.

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The researchers are now working to further optimize the devices and improve their scalability. The team have filed a patent application with the support of Cambridge Enterprise, the University’s technology transfer arm, which is also supporting the commercialization of the technology.

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A 90-Year-old Tortoise Becomes a Father For the First Time With His Partner of 29 Years

Mr. Pickles with baby –Credit: Jackelin Reyna / Houston Zoo

Mr. Pickles, a 90-year-old radiated tortoise and the oldest animal at the Houston Zoo, became a father for the first time last week.

Mr. Pickles and his 53-year-old partner, Mrs. Pickles, welcomed three hatchlings that could live for up to 150 years if well taken care of.

Native to southern Madagascar, radiated tortoises are Critically Endangered and rarely produce offspring, Houston Zoo officials said.

“The new hatchlings came as a surprise when a herpetology keeper happened upon Mrs. Pickles as the tortoise was laying her eggs at closing time,” the Houston Zoo blog reported.

“The animal care team quickly went to work uncovering the eggs and getting them to the safety of the Reptile & Amphibian House. The soil in Houston isn’t hospitable to the Madagascar native tortoises, and it’s unlikely the eggs would have hatched on their own if the keeper hadn’t been in the right place at the right time.”

3 Baby Pickles – Credit: Jackelin Reyna / Houston Zoo

Arriving in 1996, Mrs. Pickles has lived at the Houston Zoo alongside Mr. Pickles ever since. The kids have been named Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño.

The new parents have been key to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan for this exquisite reptile that has unfortunately fallen afoul of the illegal animal trade.

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In 2018 10,000 radiated tortoises were found in a private home in Toliara, Madagascar. Rescuers transported them to Le Village Des Tortues (“Turtle Village”), a private wildlife rehabilitation facility in Ifaty, 18 miles north of Toliara.

Preventative measures for insuring against the extinction of the reptile has been the establishment of breeding colonies on the Reunion Islands and Mauritius where the conditions are similar to its home in Madagascar.

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Critically-Endangered West African Lion Going from Strength to Strength in Niokolo Koba, Senegal

Released by Panthera / Department of National Parks, Senegal, by Kris Everatt

Reprinted with permission from World at Largean independent news outlet covering conflict, travel, science, conservation, and health and fitness.

In a thrilling sign of recovery for the Critically-Endangered West African lion, camera trap footage and photos of a West African lioness and her three cubs playing, nursing, and feeding in Senegal’s Niokolo Koba National Park (NKNP) were released by the conservation outfit Panthera.

The high-definition videos and photos feature Florence, a 9 to 10-year-old GPS-collared lioness that scientists believe has now given birth to three litters, totaling nine cubs, since 2021.

Now considered the matriarch of Niokolo Koba, this lioness has contributed approximately one-third of the park’s lion population which has grown slowly from a razor’s edge pride of 10 to 15 individuals in 2011 to perhaps as many as 40 today.

Just 120-374 West African lions are estimated to remain in the wild today, with their historic range having shrunk by 99%. They are part of the Northern lion subspecies, which used to range across North Africa.

When WaL reported on NKNP’s lions last year, Panthera West and Central Africa Regional Director Dr. Philipp Henschel said that the lions had hunkered down in a tiny core area, about 10% of the park’s massive 9,000 square kilometers.

Since then, the lions have become more adventurous, and have slowly been exiting that core.

“We covered the entire park in camera traps last year and that also provided evidence of lions in areas where we didn’t know resident lions existed,” Dr. Henschel told WaL on Wednesday. “And so overall if we add that up we’re at about over a third, so about 35% or so of the park occupied by lions and it might be more, it’s not always a given that you’ll detect them”.

Lions being pride animals, some of this territorial expansion seems to be the early stages in the creation of new prides, since the camera trap arrays have picked up a coalition of pride-less males roaming around the park, all of whom might be Florence’s offspring.

“These animals we detect ranging quite widely out of this core area, and now we’ve also picked up a number of females leaving this core area,” says Dr. Henschel. “As these lions fill in the landscape the females breed and this leads to the establishment of new prides in new areas that we’re currently documenting”.

Lions at one of the road crossings in the park – Panthera, Department of National Parks, Senegal, by Kris Everatt

Against all odds

Henschel and his colleagues from Panthera arrived in Senegal’s largest national park, and the second-largest in West Africa, in 2011 when the situation was dire and uncertain.

Along with a “commendable” team of under-equipped rangers, they managed to collar Florence in the dead of night last year.

“They were never collared before so we know almost nothing about these cats,” Henschel told WaL a year ago in May.

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“They were never seen. Back in the days in 2011 when we did the first survey there, I had a team of 4 people all part of the park’s staff, and of them, nobody had ever seen a lion. One of them, a driver, had already worked in the park for 10 years; he had never seen a lion”.

Now the work of restoring the lion populations is going about as well as anyone could have dared hope for. There’s much more interest from the government, which has been able to finance, train, and maintain 3 armed ranger squads that last year covered almost 9,000 kilometers of ground on their patrols, or about 35% of the park on foot.

There’s a commitment from the Park’s lead conservator who has given the green light to equip and hire 3 more ranger teams, which Henschel describes as “no small feat for the government,” which pays for real paramilitary training, and “a good salary”.

Perhaps the largest danger to the lions now is a population bottleneck, something that just comes with the territory when restoring a species from such a tiny number.

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However, even here there is good news.

“Even when I carried out the first ever lion surveys in 2011, I did intensive searches for lion scats, lion droppings, and we already have a snapshot from 2011 when the population was extremely low at 10-15 animals, and it still looked alright,” said Dr. Henschel.

“The geneticist reassured me that the genetic diversity was still quite high and that with a possible recent collapse of the lion population but [sic] that still has intrinsic diversity within it”.

“When the geneticists looked at the lion genetics, what they found was the Senegal population contains haplotypes that cannot be found in any other lion population in the world. So these are really unique to the Senegal population. Ideally, we would leave this genetic unit intact, but it depends on the results of our genetic analysis,” said Dr. Henschel.

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The analysis is expected next year, but the central government and parks department are keen to take advantage of the lions for tourism revenue. The park is truly enormous; the same size as Yellowstone in the US, and contains other rare species like leopards, and the only remaining population of West African wild dogs.

“Compared to when we started the lions are so much more visible,” says Dr. Henschel. “There’s a new lodge in the park. I spoke to the lodge manager last month and they’re now fully booked for the game viewing season, and things are moving in that direction”.

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Renovation Unearths Paintings Behind Kitchen Walls Nearly 400-Years-old

Released by Luke Budworth

In York, a seemingly normal apartment was hiding a historic secret for centuries until a kitchen remodeling exposed it to the light of day.

29-year-old Luke Budworth received a call from the men putting a new kitchen into his apartment. It read “did you know there was a painting behind here?”

It wasn’t a painting, nor a bit of leftover Victorian wallpaper as Budworth had originally suspected, but rather a frieze dating back hundreds of years ago depicting a Biblical scene

The kitchen remodeling was finished before Budworth could see for himself, but after doing a little investigation in the open-plan living space he discovered another frieze. He contacted Historic England, the largest historical preservation society in the country, to see if they were able to make sense of the discovery.

Over time, Budworth came to learn that York had once been encircled by a wall, and his second-floor apartment was built using some of this wall. The ground floor is taken up by a cafe and charity bookshop which is listed as being a Grade II Georgian building from 1747.

released by Luke Budworth

Yet his discovery dates even further back. Historic England gave him and his partner a full-size replica of the frieze to hang on the wall, and Budworth used the Biblical imagery as a reference and managed to find a picture exceedingly similar from a book called Emblems written in 1635 written by the poet Francis Quarles.

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Historic England explained that pictures such as those in the frieze fell out of fashion by the year 1700, so the work was done between those two dates, potentially placing it nearly 400 years old.

“They raise various questions about the ages of the buildings in this row of historic homes and the history of Micklegate itself,” Historic England told CNN. “Finds like this tell us that our historic homes have many secrets and we’ve been pleased to work with this homeowner on looking after these murals for the future.”

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Who funds Antifa protests? We all do

New York Post |  March 26, 2023

Last week, the city of Philadelphia agreed to pay $9.25 million to 343 left-wing protesters who alleged they suffered “physical and emotional injuries” when police used tear gas and pepper spray to clear them off a major highway in downtown at a Black Lives Matter-style direct action in 2020.

Videos recorded at the time showed the mob shut down the highway while vandalizing public property.

As a journalist who reports on the militant far-left and its rioters, the question I’m asked most often is, “Who funds them?”

Some believe billionaire George Soros is responsible.

And they would be partially correct. Soros funds groups that form part of the support apparatus of left-wing militants — district attorneys, biased media and legal groups.

But his money doesn’t directly reach the pockets of militants on the street.

Who ends up paying far-left rioters like Antifa? Too often, taxpayers like you and me.

Through a developed network of radical leftist legal groups, like the National Lawyers Guild, lawfare against cities and police departments is the go-to method for payloads. At nearly every left-wing “direct action” or riot, you’ll see NLG “legal observers” move in and out with the mob to record police. This “evidence gathering” is propaganda made to portray the police in the worst possible light while specifically omitting any recordings of what their comrades do.


Matt Taibbi issues warning of government efforts to cleanse media of ‘disinformation’: ‘Extremely dangerous’

Fox News | March 26, 2023

Independent journalist Matt Taibbi joined “Sunday Morning Futures” and warned host Maria Bartiromo of the threats ‘targeting true information’ posed by anti-disinformation programs – stressing that the programs from NGO’s and the government are ‘extremely dangerous’ and ‘terrifying.’


MATT TAIBBI: … Our most recent discoveries involve something called Stanford’s Virality Project, which was you know, it was created by Stanford University. It’s an outgrowth of something that was called the Election Integrity Partnership that was founded in 2020. There’s a lot of state money involved in this project, but what was most significant about what we found, we found emails to Twitter in which this project told them that they should consider as standard misinformation on your platform, true stories that might promote hesitancy or true stories of vaccine side effects. So we now know that a lot of these anti-disinformation programs, whether they’re actual state agencies or whether they’re NGOs that are state-funded, they’re targeting true information that just happens to be counter-narrative, which I think is extremely dangerous.