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Breakthrough Research Raises New Reader Questions About the Human Brain

Scientists are deeply fascinated by the human brain – and so are investors.

That's why I wrote this article on September 22 about three new "brain breakthroughs" and how they are changing our view of this complex organ.

And it drew quite a response. Dozens of you reached out to me with questions and comments.

I am always impressed with the quality of observations I get from you readers.

This is a very smart group that is intrigued with the many advances that are changing the world around us every day, even if they're not quite ripe for investment just yet.

Given the volume and caliber of comments, I thought I should take a moment today to respond.

But before I do, I want to thank you once again for your interest. I couldn't possibly succeed in my quest to document this exciting new world without such great support from you.

A few of you shared deeply personal accounts. Thank you for that, too. I'll do my best to address them.

First, here are two great questions from Al about brain disease …

Q: This is all very interesting Michael. I'm a member of the Futurist Society, and I haven't seen them uncover anything like your brain advancement posts. Will diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's be minimized in the not-too-distant future? How far out would you guess that to be? ~ Al

A: Thanks for noting the unique slant that I'm taking here and at the Era of Radical Change. I, too, am a member of the Futurist Society. I follow the group to help me keep abreast of key trends about the future.
As regards the two terrible brain diseases you mentioned, the short answer is yes, we are making a lot of progress on both.

Each gets funding from several sources, such as foundations and federal agencies. So we do have research teams around the world trying to combat Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

At the same time, we are rushing headlong toward mapping a complete view of the entire brain. And that may be even more important, in the long run.

These are two very different approaches. But to me, they are not mutually exclusive. I believe we will need to come up with a "bridge" technology that may not cure these kinds of ailments entirely but will greatly minimize them, as you say.

For instance, some Parkinson's patients already receive neural implants. Researchers are looking for ways to make them last longer and work better. We could see major breakthroughs in both those metrics within a decade.

Q: Telemeters strand repair and infrared light therapy, coupled with these new findings, will let us cross the brain-blood barrier with drugs targeted to specific cells. That is a game changer. ~ Robert R.

A: Robert, you make a great point, and I want to make sure everyone understands it.

I don't have a strong background in the two areas Robert mentions. Having said that, I

The blood-brain barrier is critical for the survival of the species. It's there to let nutrients in but keep deadly agents and infections out. But it also presents major challenges when it comes to delivering medicines and other therapies that could treat brain disorders. It's one of key things holding this field back.

Up to now, it's been a Catch-22 – any drug strong enough to solve brain diseases is too big to cross the barrier, and anything small enough to make it through doesn't do the trick.

The ability to cross the blood-brain barrier will prove crucial for a new generation of drugs.

And as I reported to you last May, we're making big progress in this field. A Harvard team used the protein clathrin to cross the blood-brain barrier.

I believe this or a similar type of tech will someday lead us to a whole new class of nanotech drugs that can fight brain diseases.

Q: I had a stroke, and my vision is greatly impaired. I am told that the problem is the neurons that connect the pathway to the eyes from the brain. I am told science is 8 to 10 years away from solving this problem. [What work is] being done regarding the neurons of the brain? If you could point me in a direction to people that are working on neurons of the brain, I would really appreciate it. ~ Patrick K.

A: Yes, scientists around the world are doing what they can to gain a deeper knowledge of all the neurons in our brains. That includes seeing how each one works and how we can use drugs or implants to solve problems caused by defective brain cells or those attacked by a wide range of diseases.

So I am really quite optimistic that we will learn all we need to know about the complex interactions of neurons.

Having said that, I do believe it will take up to a decade before that translates into real-world "cures."

It's not just the science that will take that long. Any new compound or device we come up with would have to get approval from the regulators like the FDA. It would almost certainly require animal tests and then human trials. That alone takes several years. Still, I hope a cure comes soon for you, Patrick.

Next, Curtis wrote to ask for information that could help his wife, who sustained brain damage from a tumor and the related radiation treatment.

Q: After a period of decline, she now lays in a nursing home not able to talk, use her hands, or hardly any part of her body. I would be very pleased to have a specialist you mentioned to evaluate her. I have watched this progress the past 14 years. She is on a feeding tube. Please answer my request. ~ Curtis C.

A: First, let me offer my condolences for your wife's condition. I hope that she recovers. Of course, I'm not a medical doctor and can't comment on her specific needs.

But if I were in your shoes, I would contact the neuroscience departments of the all major universities in your area to see if there are any experimental trials going on in this field. You may be able to find a neurosurgeon who may want to conduct an exam or suggest a new therapy that hasn't gotten wide publicity. Good luck to both you and your wife.

Q: Your message above certainly gives people like me some very optimistic hope. I pray that your work will be in every way quickly successful. May God bless you and your efforts. ~ David B.

A: Thanks so much for those kind words of encouragement, David. They are very much appreciated.

As I read through tons of reports about the latest advances in science, high tech, and medicine, I'm struck by two things.

First, the pace of change has hit warp speed. We are moving so fast in so many areas, no one person can hope to understand it all.

And second, America is still the world leader in innovation. I really do believe that in the Era of Radical Change technology can save the nation. And transform the human race.

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About the Author

Michael A. Robinson is one of the top financial analysts working today. His book "Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings" was a prescient look at the anatomy of the nation's S&L crisis, long before the word "bailout" became part of our daily lexicon. He's a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter, lauded by the Columbia Journalism Review for his aggressive style. His 30-year track record as a leading tech analyst has garnered him rave reviews, too. Today he is the editor of the monthly tech investing newsletter Nova-X Report as well as Radical Technology Profits, where he covers truly radical technologies – ones that have the power to sweep across the globe and change the very fabric of our lives – and profit opportunities they give rise to. He also explores "what's next" in the tech investing world at Strategic Tech Investor.

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  1. Daniel Lexington | October 7, 2012

    There is one known cure for Alzheimer's: GRAZOPH TEMUNA, The neutraceutical clears brain of plaques, eliminates poisonous metals, leaves a brain refreshed. Both cures and prevents Alzheimer's

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