Scientists were able to develop the most complete laboratory-grown human brain ever which they claim can be a crucial breakthrough for the treatment of neurological diseases. The researchers at the Ohio State University managed to grow a brain with a maturity similar to a 5-week-old fetus.
“It not only looks like the developing brain, its diverse cell types express nearly all genes like a brain,” Rene Anand, professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State and lead researcher on the brain model, said in a statement. “We’ve struggled for a long time trying to solve complex brain disease problems that cause tremendous pain and suffering. The power of this 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 pea-sized brain contains 99 percent of the genes that would be present in a natural human fetal brain, multiple cell types, all major regions of the brain and spinal cord, but lacks a vascular system. The model was developed from human skin cells and, according to scientists, it is the most complete laboratory-grown brain known so far.
Anand presented his work this week during the 2015 Military Health System Research Symposium in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Photo courtesy of The Ohio State University
To further develop the brain, the team would need to develop a vascular system which they are still unable to produce. In this case, an artificial heart would need to be created to help the brain grow and develop itself. If this can be done, the brain would help to understand the progression of neurological diseases.
“In central nervous system diseases, this will enable studies of either underlying genetic susceptibility or purely environmental influences, or a combination,” Anand said. “Genomic science infers there are up to 600 genes that give rise to autism, but we are stuck there. Mathematical correlations and statistical methods are insufficient to in themselves identify causation. You need an experimental system – you need a human brain.”
For now, the team is using the brain to understand the effect of post-traumatic stress and brain injuries.
Source: Ohio State University News