Growing Miniature Brains in Laboratories

Scientists at the Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences have accomplished something that might blow your mind. They’ve grown miniature-sized human brains (completely in a lab setting) to better understand neurological diseases, according to the BBC.

The brains have reached the same level of development as a nine-week old foetus, but are not conscious or capable of thought.

Human embryonic stem cells and skin cells were used to produce the cells that build the brain. These cells were dropped into a stable environment where they could grow and grow they did, to the size of a pea. Blood or oxygen cannot penetrate the inside of the brain (which are made up entirely of brain tissue), making any more growth impossible. But after they reach their maximum size, they can go on lively for a long time.

The scientist’s study takes a look at how the mini-brains can broaden our understanding of microcephaly, a disease that resolves in people having smaller brains. By being able to watch a brain develop, scientists can pinpoint where things go wrong.

Scientists hope this new method of study can give better insight into our brains and do away with testing on rats and mice.

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