Scientists Create Human Brain in a Lab

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Scientists Create Human Brain in a Lab

human brain in the lab

Scientific Developments

The science labs of horror movie mad scientists have long included reanimated human brains in jars, usually created for menacing means. However, real world scientists have now engineered the first ever artificial brain, and have far more altruistic plans for the breakthrough.

The brain has been created by scientists at Ohio State University who believe it could be used to assist research and treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism. These conditions are still widely misunderstood, and the team hope that a working replica of a brain could lead to greater insight.
Whilst the brain is only a fraction of the size of a regular human brain, it contains 99% of the genes present in the brain of a human foetus. Professor Rene Anad, enthused: “It not only looks like the developing brain, its diverse cell types express nearly all genes like a brain.”
“We’ve struggled for a long time trying to solve complex brain disease problems that cause tremendous pain and suffering. The power of their brain model bodes very well for human health because it gives us better and more relevant options to test and develop therapeutics other than rodents.”
The brain is also attached to a spinal cord, signalling circuitry and a retina – allowing it to mimic interaction with other organs and parts of the body.
Scientists believe this could represent a huge breakthrough for research into human brain development. This area of research has traditionally been completed by monitoring mouse brains, leading to limited developments.
The lab’s engineered brain is not conscious but was created from the skin cells of a human adult. Previous attempts at engineering brains resulted in organs which were not complete, and only contained certain aspects of the brain.
Anad believes the development has huge potential for detecting and treating brain conditions, explaining: “If you have an inherited disease, for example, you could give us a sample of skin cells, we could make a brain and then ask what’s going on. We can look at the expression of every gene in the human genome at every step of the development process and see how they change with different toxins. Maybe then we’ll be able to say ‘holy cow, this one isn’t good for you.’”
It takes the team roughly 12 weeks to engineer a brain which resembles the maturity of a five-week-old foetus. Creating a more developed and mature brain would require an artificial heart and blood vessel system.
The team at Ohio State are currently using the engineered brain for military research, identifying the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and other traumatic brain injuries.
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