Build-a-Brain

By Alice Orszulok

Mini human brains have been developed in the lab

The 1.5-kilogram mass of jelly-like tissue in your head is more powerful, more complex and more clever than any supercomputer ever built. Although scientists know what certain areas of the brain do, they are still trying to understand how the brain processes certain information, memory formation and regeneration.

To further their research, a team of international scientists have grown ‘mini-brains’ to help them to understand the way in which the brain grows and what goes wrong in neurological disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

The tiny brains are four millimetres across—about the size of a pea—and include some of the main areas of the brain, including parts of the cortex, hippocampus and retinas.

To grow the mini brains, the researchers took special stem cells and gave them a mix of nutrients that help with brain development. The stem cells grew to form a layer of special tissue, which the researchers then placed in gel to help it develop into a 3D form. The whole process took about two months. The scientists had previously grown slithers of brain tissue using stem cells, but this was the first time they grew more complex 3D organoids.

If you think this is the start of developing life-sized human brains, you will be disappointed. Because of blood supply problems, the mini-brains could not grow into fully functioning organs. Also, Dr Knoblich says that it would be undesirable to try to develop larger brains. Possibly because the idea reminds us a little too much of Frankenstein’s Monster, and that’s a scientific experiment we don’t want to copy!

Source [Science Daily]

Keyword [Neurology]

Neurology is the study of nerves and the nervous system, which also includes the spinal cord and the brain. The nervous system controls everything you do, including breathing, talking and moving. Neurology looks at things that can go wrong with the nervous system, such as diseases like schizophrenia and autism.