Brain Organoids

The eighth technology to make it to MIT’s technology review is Brain Organoids, A new method for growing human brain cells to study the mysteries of mental disorders.

Stem cell culture has been practiced by different medicine practitioners for many years. Scientists at Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, Austria have successfully developed organoids of liver and other organs using stem cell culture. While this is the first time when organoids of brain cell have been developed using this technique.

The technique involves taking a cell from a human and then with right biochemical this cell is treated to get a pluripotent stem cell. Such stem cells are able to giving rise to different types of cells. Scientists then decide to which type of cells then want to grow.

These organoids have same nature as of a human organ, thus scientists are able to carry out different tests for different diseases. Neuroscientist will now be able to study how neurons grow and function, and they could change our understanding of everything from basic brain activities to the causes of schizophrenia and autism. Scientists will be able see directly how networks of living human brain cells develop and function, and how they’re affected by various drug compounds or genetic modifications. And because these mini-brains can be grown from a specific person’s cells, organoids could serve as unprecedentedly accurate models for a wide range of diseases.

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This is just the beginning. Visionary scientists and pharmaceutical companies are looking to find out the answers to such questions. The first of the experiment was taken out at University of Edinburg, where brain organoids were developed from cells of a patient with microcephaly. Later the researchers experimented with different proteins that were associated with microcephaly, and were able to cure the organoids partially.

Researchers at MIT and Johns Hopkins University are working on the same technology to investigate different disorders related to brain like autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy.

What makes brain organoids chiefly useful is that they are growth mirrors aspects of human brain development. The cells divide, take on the characteristics of, say, the cortex, cluster together in layers, and start to look like the discrete three-dimensional structures of a brain. If anything goes wrong along the way, which is noticeable as the organoids grow, scientists can look for possible causes, mechanisms, and even drug treatments.

The number of usages of such organoids grows with each advance in study of neural study. Most provocative is the prospect that cerebral organoids might solve the deepest of mysteries: what is special with our brains that sets us apart from other animals?