BEACON TRANSCRIPT – It would seem that we are mere decades away from developing a fully functional human brain. The researchers managed to devise pint-sized brains in order to study the effects of neurological diseases.
As baffling as it might seem, at first, a team of medical researchers from Johns Hopkins University actually managed to replicate mini brains in the lab. The team declared that the model developed under strict lab conditions is going to serve better at studying the effects of certain neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and many others.
Although the pint-sized brains are far from being actual brains, the research team said that the cellular formations managed to retain the same properties as their big brothers. The small brain devised in the lab has roughly the shape of a ball, and it contains millions of brain cells.
The team also stated that this miniature brain is going to provide more accurate results when it will be used to test potential new drugs for neurological diseases. This, in turn, will save research projects a lot of money, usually wasted on animal testing, and followed by human testing.
Thomas Hartung, a professor of environmental health sciences and one of the researchers involved in the project, by using lab-borne brains we might be able to rule out any incompatibility issues that may arise when a drug successfully tested on lab rats does not yield the same result when it is tested on humans.
Moreover, the professor said in a jokingly manner, that humans are not rats, and it is only natural that an experiment performed on rats should return another result when tested on a human subject. Although this ball of neural cells is far from the real thing, the professor and his team declared that it is far more useful to their research than the brain of a rat.
In other terms, good for science and even better for animals. So, it’s basically a win-win situation.
Researchers managed to devise pint-sized brain used a technique invented in Japan. According to the abstract of their thesis, the method involves harvesting stem cells from skin samples. After the cells are harvested, they can be programmed, via direct stimulation, in order to take the shape of a brain. The whole process lasts approximately 8 weeks, and the result is a compact ball of neural cells that measures 350 micrometers in diameter.
Basically, the lab-borne brain is roughly the size of a housefly. Their findings are going to be presented before the American Association for the Advancement of Science committee on the 13th of February.