It’s long been a dream of science, to allow us to live forever. The day has finally come, at least that’s what this two man research team from Adowa says. In a paper just released by the America Journal of Brain Science, (A lot of this article is quoted from there. It’s in their June 2014 Issue in an article entitled How to Live Forever) it’s been revealed that a research team at the University Of Adowa has finally found a way. In a process they are calling synaptic cloning two Scientist, Fritz Honergan and Charles Swiner, claim that they are able to successfully map and replicate large portions of brain tissue. The technology is at least a year away from being publicly released but they are convinced that they have proven their process in and out of the lab.
They have kept their research very secretive for a number of reasons. “First and Foremost,” Honergan says, “We wanted to guard against attracting too much attention for our work until it was ready.”
They have received a wave of scorn from the medical community for their, less than conventional method of starting human trials. A little over two years ago, Charles Swiner and Fritz Honergan started doing something that many are saying should be illegal.
After years of laboratory research, that they claim was proof of concept, they set out to get approval for human trials. The regulatory agencies that governs these types of things, (which we won’t name for the sake of unanimity – but you’ve heard of them) Informed Honergan and Swiner that their “Neuro Mapped Cognitive Regeneration” (that’s what they called it at the time) was not able to be granted license for human trials.
They reapplied, and appealed the decision a number of times before they were banned from the application process for ten years. The agency was not forthcoming with their reasoning and apparently to this day, hasn’t given any statement on the hearing.
At this point it would be helpful for you to know a little about how the process works. “Synaptic Cloning is not actually a cloning process in the traditional sense.” Honergan says. It combines two technologies that have become ubiquitous in the last few years. The first is UHRMI. That stands for Ultra High Resolution Magnetic Imaging. Think MRI on steroids. It uses the same technology, but in the last decade these high tech internal imaging units have gained more clarity and resolution with each iteration. “It was just a matter of time,” Honergan says, “before the resolution got high enough to actually map the synaptic pathways.”
Even the highest resolution machines that the medical community had access to in 2001, when they began, were not going to work. They tried with a number of different imaging processes but found that it was a dead end. That’s where the research sat until 2010 when UHRMI scanners began to be used first in the U.S. then in Europe. UHRMI is still a fairly new process and only a handful are in the entire United States. Swiner and Honergan were able to acquire one of these machines, and their research was back on track. They had to modify the imaging equipment to do what they needed it to do, but they say that was a fairly easy process.
So the second technology that has made synaptic cloning a possibility, is 3D printing. You’ve probably heard of this and may even know someone who owns a 3D printer. They’re becoming more popular, to the point where many are even in homes now. Swiner and Honergan wanted to harness the unique capabilities of this technology. The 3D printer, however, was still years away from doing what they wanted and needed it to do.
Their research hit a bump when they had to seek private funding, because at this point their University backing was drying up. The ban from human trial application hurt the reputation of the team, and apparently the University wanted to wash their hands of it. They won’t disclose who funded the project form that point, but it’s clear from their project timeline that whoever got behind them had the resources to match their enormous ambition.
Apparently they would have been dead in the water, but over 3 billion dollars was pumped into their facility, and research team. You read that right, billion with a b. They were able to do the R. and D. required to get the 3D technology where they needed it to move forward.
Synaptic Cloning, apparently, is a process where ultra high resolution images are compiled digitally. The size of these images are so big that they had to develop special multi deck hard drive arrays to store a single image. Each image is in the order of 25 to 30 petabytes. The 3D printer is loaded with biologically cultured samples from a test subject. The high rez images are used to… well there’s not another way to say it. They are used to print out a brain. At first it was just small portions of brain tissue, but before long they improved the process and were able to have a 93% success rate with tissue printing.
They were able to replicate a number of brains, starting with a birds because of their high brain to body ratio. After years of work, they had moved to a fully replicated chimpanzee brain.
Now, in the early stages they found it impossible, once this new brain was printed, to integrate it back into the body. Eventually they brought on a team of neuro-researchers to work on the problem. Although they could place the brain in the skull, they didn’t have the means to reconnect motor function and sensory feedback pathways. They developed a few work arounds, but only recently did they finally find a solution for the brain connectivity problem. They realized that if they only replicated the bio-matter associated with cognitive functioning, and integrated that into the existing infrastructure for motor and sensory feedback, then they could actually implant a brain into a body and have it fuctional.
At this point, they had the proof of concept, and were convinced that it was working, but they had no license for human trials. As the story goes, Charles Swiner volunteered to have the operation done on himself. This was strictly secretive, since it was highly illegal. Due to legal ramifications, Swiner and Honergan moved their entire research facility to a different location on foreign soil. Even to this day, they will not disclose where. Apparently it was somewhere who’s jurisdictional code was more relaxed.
“Once we got situated we went right to work.” Honergan says. “It took a week to get ready, and then another three days to get a good scan. Once we had the image, it was just a matter of getting a good print, and then replacing that new brain matter in Charles’ cranial space.”
Honergan insists that the operation was a huge success and that it proves that the process is ready for the marketplace.
It is unclear whether Charles Swiner feels the same way. He gave a statement to the associated press after the procedure was completed. Only two weeks after he had his brain tissue replaced by synaptic cloned brain cells, this is what he had to say. “tee-tee snow cones are good for colon confusion. I usually try to wear a funny dog mask by 9am because the clouds come north at any time after February. If it gets hot, though, I’ll try on a sweater soaked in wood chips.”