Scientist successfully developed a mini-brain in a lab against nature’s law, neural networks found to be functional that produce brain waves. This is very much similar to those observed in premature babies.
Dr Alysson Muotri (biologist and researcher at University of California) said, “We never had a brain organoid that can function like the human brain. The electrical activity of these brain organoids are emitting something we see during normal human development. So, it is a strong indication that what we have should work and function like the human brain.”
Further, he added, it is not a real brain, but a step forward to grow a fully formed and functional human brain in the lab.
How mini-brains created
- These mini-brains also known as brain organoids or cerebral organoids are just pea-sized lumps of cells which are created by culturing “human pluripotent stem cells” in a 3D rotational bioreactor, which can develop into any type of bodily cell or tissue.
- At two months, mini-brains start emitting single frequency sparse electrical activity which has been identified similar to immature human brains.
- By ten months, mini-brains showed regular brain wave activity, i.e. consistent increase in electrical signals (brain wave activity) actuated by neurons (similar to that of developing brain), these are the signal that neurons had matured and forming networks.
Ethical constraints and restrictions
- Not ethical to study an embryonic human brain during pregnancy.
- Relying mostly on animal models which are far from human brains.
- Electrical activity eventually reaches the highest point and then stops in the mini-brains. The reason that Dr Muotri said, the organoids might need more cells or the conditions are not ideal. It needs further inputs to develop networks similar to human brains which require inputs after nine months.
- They lack nutrient-delivering vascular systems, which also lacks the different type of cells represented in real human brains.
Future prospects of Brain Organoids
- Mini brains can give scientist a clear picture of human brain development.
- The experiment can have uses for treating neurological and psychiatric disorders like epilepsy, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer, autism and preterm hypoxia (ischemia).
- This mini-brain can be used to grow specific brain regions and later transplant them to the defective part.
- Organoids can help in studying complex brain tissue and the effects of drugs that can ensure safety and efficacy.
- They can help in studying cell migration.
- Mini-brains can help in studying tissue morphogenesis, i.e. how neural organs form in vertebrates.
- It can help scientists to understand how the human brain learns, store and retain memories, and process information.