Scientists Grow Miniature Brains
Scientists grow miniature human brains with hope of transforming our understanding of neurological disorders
Imaging of a miniature brain.
A recent study, published in Nature, has shown great promise for insight into the cause of neurological disease. Researchers at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Science (IMBA) were able to “grow” a miniature brain with the use of stem cells from embryos and adult skin cells. The cells developed into a smaller version of the “human brain” and even separated into some of the different areas of the brain including the cerebral cortex and an early form of the hippocampus.
Scientists are excited by the prospect of working with these brains that closely resemble brain development in a 9week fetus, particularly its usefulness in understanding organ development. One of the researchers, Dr. Juergen Knoblich, said:
"What our organoids are good for is to model development of the brain and to study anything that causes a defect in development. Ultimately we would like to move towards more common disorders like schizophrenia or autism. They typically manifest themselves only in adults, but it has been shown that the underlying defects occur during the development of the brain."
These “mini-brains” are roughly 1/10th of an inch in size, and have been able to survive for nearly a year without further growth. Though scientists have been able to grow the tissue, brain function remains nonexistent. There is no blood supply to the tissue, depriving the inner parts of the brain of oxygen and nutrients and rendering the brain incapable of thought. Despite these limitations, the study provides another stepping-stone on the path to finding treatments and cures for neurological diseases.
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