Hybrots and Rat Brains, for Healthcare
What happens when you mix a blob of rat brain cells with ingenuity and a few thousand dollars of robotic controls? You have a “hybrot,” a hybrid robot that is controlled by a living brain! This science fiction came true in 2002 when Georgia Tech scientists married a few thousand-rat brain cells with a robot. When neurons fired, the robot moved. Absolutely incredible!
U.K. scientists at the University of Reading are taking those early experiments further by working to enhance the ability of the rat-brain-robot combination. Scientists are researching ways to enhance the learning of the rat brain so the robot as the ability to learn and interact with its environment. In an interesting twist, the brain isn’t even located inside the robot. The brain is securely stored in a case separate from the robot and commands are issued via Bluetooth technology.
So, what does this amazing technology have to do with healthcare? Researchers are looking to gain additional understanding of memory especially as it relates to disorders such as Alzheimer disease. In addition, researchers at other labs are investigating ways to leverage the technology to control prosthetic limbs.
I guess new chapters will eventually have to be written in to Harrison’s Manual of Medicine to include differential diagnosis for Bluetooth and robotic controls – smile.