News Stories

Grow New Body Parts?Or Even Better, Become a Robot

A Nigerian woman will have a new nose grown on her arm as part of surgery that will be done in Scotland to rebuild her face. Madina Yusuff is a victim of the flesh-wasting condition called Noma, which destroys cheek, mouth or nose tissue and often the whole face. It affects 500,000 African children each year. Experts will use bone and cartilage to build a framework for the new nose, which will develop on her arm. Surgeon Peter Ayliffe says this will allow enough tissue and bloodvessels to grow to help replicate a nose. The series of operations is expected to take six months.

Ayliffe hopes Madina, who is in her early 20?s, will be able to return home and start her studies become a nurse. He met her a year ago when he was on a medical humanitarian trip during to the Noma Children?s Hospital in Sokoto, northern Nigeria.

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Meanwhile, a 20-year-old student in Romania who was born without a right ear will get an ear made from a rib. Doctors will take tissue from a rib and mold him an ear during two operations. It will take five months to complete the procedure.

Dr. Dumitru Cristea, head of the hospital department in Galati, is says the surgeons will ?make and shape? an ear from the gelatinous part of the rib.

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In case surgeons can?t help you, two German scientists have discovered how to combine living nerve cells with silicon to create the world?s first neuronal chip. They will eventually be able to combine computers with living brains and create implants that can repair spinal cords or eyes.

Peter Fromherz and Gunther Zeck, from the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich, explain that the chip contains an array of cells enclosed by ?picket fences? which allow the connection to be maintained as the cells grow.

An electric signal passes from the silicon into a neuron, and can then move into a neighboring neuron along a synaptic link. The signal then passes back into the chip to complete the circuit, just like a conventional silicon switch, except that one of the connections is human flesh.

Bruce Wheeler, from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois says, ?This is a fundamental step towards a much enhanced ability to design, control and interface to neuronal networks of increasing complexity. The work has an element of vision that will excite future generations of scientists.?

In other words, if you don?t like your body, you may be able to get rid of it and become a living robot instead.

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