This is fascinating on so very many levels, but here’s the part that caught my attention:
At the moment the structures did not grow larger than a few millimetres in the culture dishes because nutrients and oxygen could not reach into the centre of the organoids as they grew. To grow much bigger they would need to be equipped with a blood supply of some kind that could feed their centres.
He added that they were unlikely to reach the complexity required to model cognition or any other higher brain function, and the intention of the research was not to grow replacement brain parts or an entire brain in culture.
“I have to be pessimistic about this. The ultimate complexity of the brain will not allow any replacement of structures,” he said. “In the adult brain all the parts are intimately integrated with other areas of the brain. It would be very hard to repair defects with this.”
I wonder whether we will ever reach a point where these kinds of experiments might help us understand the software – the cognitive processes better. The hardware failures are obviously really important to our ability to intervene in brain disorders. But I have to say that from a more philosophical level, it’s the questions of consciousness that interest me more.
Originally shared by Derya Unutmaz
Miniature brains grown in test tubes – a new path for neuroscience?
Scientists have grown miniature human brains in test tubes, creating a “tool” that will allow them to watch how the organs develop in the womb and, they hope, increase their understanding of neurological and mental problems.
Just a few millimetres across, the “cerebral organoids” are built up of layers of brain cells with defined regions that resemble those seen in immature, embryonic brains.
The scientists say the organoids will be useful for biologists who want to analyse how conditions such as schizophrenia or autism occur in the brain. Though these are usually diagnosed in older people some of the underlying defects occur during the brain’s early development.
The organoids are also expected to be useful in the development and testing of drugs. At present this is done using laboratory animals or isolated human cells; the new organoids could allow pharmacologists to test drugs in more human-like settings.