Miniature brains grown in the laboratory for the first time

Traditionally scientists have relied on mouse brains to understand the human’s most complex organ. However healthcare professional Knoblich has succeeded in growing small brains, which include parts of the cortex, hippocampus and retinas.

The model has provided new insights into the way the brain develops, reports the New Scientist. For example, in order to understand why a fetal brain sometimes fails to reach full size, a condition known as microcephaly, the researchers were able to use cells derived from a person with the condition. By studying the model, the team discovered that the period of stem cell multiplication was shorter than usual – not enough stem cells were available to turn into neurons, resulting in a smaller brain overall.

Larger brains could offer insights into conditions such as schizophrenia and autism. However, whilst providing a good structural model, the brains are not able to become conscious, as activities for higher brain function cannot be reproduced.

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