Scientists from the US claim to have created a brain in laboratory that is very similar to a real human one.
Humans are determined not to leave any possibility untouched. Scientists from Ohio State University have thus shown how the prospects for creating a human brain under laboratory conditions can be stretched. They claim to have produced a model that resembles a 5-week-old foetus’. They describe their endeavour as the most complete lab-grown human brain ever to see the light of the day.
The man-made product bears close resemblance to a human brain, both in appearance and in terms of the genes it carries. The scientists, whose brain-child it is, believe their findings will further research in the field of therapeutics for brain diseases.
“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 product of Anand and his team is a nearly complete model of a human foetal brain, including a spinal cord, neurons, major brain areas, the different cell types characteristic of a brain, as well as signalling circuits; it only misses blood vessels.
Furthermore, high-resolution imaging shows that the brain functions well. The whole process of creating it lasted 15 weeks.
“If we let it go to 16 or 20 weeks, that might complete it, filling in that 1 percent of missing genes. We don’t know yet,” said Anand.
As mentioned earlier, the model might help boost research. Rodents will not have to be used if the brain is confirmed to be efficient for testing purposes.
“In central nervous system diseases, this will enable studies of either underlying genetic susceptibility or purely environmental influences, or a combination,” said Anand. “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.”