John Hopkins Scientists Developing Mini-BrainsCristina Cantor (Author) Published Date : Feb 15, 2016 22:37 IST
Researchers at renowned John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have been growing tiny replicas of human brains.
The research is to help in the study of neurological diseases in what many hope will lead to better overall treatments and in the end, cures for some of the illnesses that are the most debilitating.
The scientists at Hopkins joined a handful of other researches around the U.S. who have been culturing mini-brains in labs.
It is a relatively new type of scientific inquiry that one day could revolutionize how companies test new drugs for their effectiveness by replacing lab animal drug testing with testing on actual human cells.
The process could offer test results that are more accurate and help in developing of more effective, new drugs.
The researchers reprogrammed genes of human skin cells turning them into embryonic stem cells, which hold the capacity to develop into any form of tissue.
The stem cells then are nurtured to be brain cells. The work was presented by researchers on Friday in Washington, D.C.
When they are fully grown, the 3-D mini-brains are about 350 micrometers making them just visible to the humans and look like a tiny ball.
It takes approximately 8 weeks for the brain cells to grow into a mini-brain ball.
While these versions are not an exact replica of a brain, they are made up of the same cells and neurons found within human brains, feature a structure that is the same and act in the same fashion.
The mini-brains are able to provide a better place to test for scientists, said a lead researcher for the group.
The human brain is far more complex than a rat s brain, which is typically used for research. In addition, about 95% of the drugs that have promise when tested on animals, fail when humans are used to test them.
A number of drugs in development have failed due to animal models not representing humans and a big desire exists to get new models that are more human like.
John Hopkins Scientists Developing Mini-Brains