A brain organoid has been grown from the skin cells of adult humans, by scientists at the Ohio State University. This is the first time a human brain has been created with such maturity and it is the most complete human brain ever developed.
The engineered brain has the maturity of a five-week-old foetus and is about the size of a pencil eraser, yet contains 99 percent of the genes in the human foetal brain and even has an identifiable brain structure.
“It not only looks like the developing brain, its diverse cell types express nearly all genes like a brain,” says Rene Anand, professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State.
He discussed the ongoing struggle to solve some of the most complex brain diseases, then went on to speak of the hope for the future, “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.”
Accurate and Ethical Testing
One of the most exciting applications for the newly developed brain is the ability of scientists to now perform accurate and ethical testing of new experimental drugs before the clinical trial stage. It will also, it’s believed, advance a number of scientific studies of central nervous system disorders, including genetic and environmental causes.
Accelerating Neuroscience’s Gains
Despite the brain missing a vascular system, all the major regions of the brain have been created, as has a spinal cord, a retina and multiple cell types, so it’s expected that this development will dramatically accelerate the gains that neuroscience has made in recent times, says Anand, himself a prominent neuroscientist.
“In central nervous system diseases, this will enable studies of either underlying genetic susceptibility or purely environmental influences, or a combination,” he said.
The scientists haven’t ceased their quest yet as they’re still hoping to develop a more mature foetal brain. While it currently takes 15 weeks to grow a five-week-old foetal brain, Anand says, “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.”