Scientists have developed the first nearly complete human brain in the lab. This may seem like a Sci-Fi phenomenon, but it’s actually real.
Scientists who sometimes rely on using animal brains for research may have found an alternative.
A team of researchers from Ohio State University claims to have engineered a fully-developed replica of a human brain from adult skin cells for the very first time. The brain is approximately the size of a pencil eraser, containing 99 percent of the genetic material present in a five-week old human fetal brain.
According to the scientific team, the brain is not “thinking” in any way, so ethical issues are automatically eliminated.
However, it misses a vascular system, because this would have implied the development of an artificial heart as well.
On the other hand, the brain is attached to a spinal cord. All the major brain regions are signaling circuitry. It displays a retina and multiple cell types.
The organoid displays functioning neurons, along with their extensions, axons and dendrites. Also, another remarkable feature is that the miniature brain is able to activate excitatory and inhibitory functions. It can also enable chemical signals to traverse its structure.
Taking into consideration the somewhat immoral nature and limited efficiency of animal testing, the lab-developed brain is believed to reflect a step forward in scientific advancements.
Rene Anand, Ohio state professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology, who struggled to create the brain, explained that the team had attempted to solve complex brain illnesses that brought about excruciating pain and suffering. This brain prototype helps by providing better model that could be used for research. The lab brain may be considered an omen of human health improvements.
Scientists believe that the eraser-sized brain may offer the possibility of studying and developing cures for neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism, for instance. It could also be used for a more thorough study of PTSD and psychological issues.
Therefore, scientists can now test experimental drugs before they’re brought to clinical trials.
Prof. Anand also pointed out that if left to grow for approximately 16-20 weeks, the miniature brain might become complete, and the mystery of the 1 percent of missing genes might be elucidated.
When the scientific team presented the report at the 2015 Military Health System Research Symposium, they concluded that they would “provide the best possible environment and conditions that replicate what’s going on in utero to support the brain.”
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