The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week is national biophysics week, and as our home is here at The Randall division of cell and molecular biophysics our Top 3 news stories for this week are all biophysics related. This week’s top stories include one big biophysics birthday, creating images from your thoughts and restoring sight in mice.

By Willow Hight-Warburton

Happy birthday Ernest C. Pollard!

Professor Pollard was a prominent professor of physics and biophysics, would have turned 112 this week. During his career Pollard authored over 200 papers on, among other things, the physics of living cells and the effects and repair mechanisms of cells and viruses exposed to radiation.

He was also instrumental in creating the Biophysical Society, which was founded in 1958 to both raise awareness of and develop knowledge in the field of biophysics. This week is Biophysics awareness week, and you can find out more about events that are happening near you here.


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

A computer has been trained to read your mind. Well, sort of … Scientists from ATR and Kyoto University in Japan have trained a Deep Neural Network (DNN) to decode brain scans of people looking at images.

DNNs are complex sets of algorithms designed to mimic the way a human brain decodes shapes and patterns. Amazingly, after training the DNN was able to reconstruct what a person was seeing after decoding scans of blood flow in the viewers brain (see below). However, the process was costly and time consuming. The system had to be fed 6000 images and training before it managed to reconstruct natural images.

Even so – whilst this technology may still be preliminary, the potential is incredibly exciting! Imagine being able to watch your dreams!

thought pictures
Viewed imaged left, DNN reconstructed image right

The future looks bright.

A nanoscale intervention has restored vision to blind mice. A team from Shanghai created artificial photoreceptors, made of titanium dioxide and gold nanowires, which were then surgically inserted into the back of the eye.

Within 8 weeks post-surgery, the mice seemed to show positive signs of sight restoration; their pupils constricted in response to UV, blue and green light and brain activity associated with vision was recovered.

Use in humans is still a long way off, especially as it was difficult for the scientists to determine how well the mice were seeing. However, these prosthetic devices do offer hope of a cure to the millions of blind or vision impaired people worldwide.