The team at Ohio State University has apparently created the most complete human brain model to date.
The experiment, which may seem like something out of a science fiction novel, was created in a petri dish and engineered from adult human skin cells.
With an apparent maturity of a five-week-old foetus, the brain was created by Dr. Rene Arnaud and her team over the course of 12 weeks.
Described as being “the size of a pencil eraser”, ethical concerns for the team were non-existent, as the brain is not conscious in any way. “We don’t have any sensory stimuli entering the brain. This brain is not thinking in any way,” Anand said.
The miniature brain could provide groundbreaking insights into the progression of various developmental diseases, as well as provide a test subject for drugs targeted towards Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Previous attempts at growing whole brains have seen scientists create “mini organs” that lack the complete makeup to act as a substitute for testing purposes. The team at Ohio State has apparently managed to recreate 99% of the brain’s cell types and genes.
In order for the brain to progress to the next level of research, it would require a working network of blood vessels to encourage growth, which currently, the team are unable to produce.
“We’d need an artificial heart to help the brain grow further in development,” said Anand.
Whilst the team are yet to reveal their data, the initial response from the medical community is positive, yet apprehensive.
However, if the process has been successful and the team have indeed recreated an anatomically correct brain, the research conducted with it, could revolutionise medicine.
“If you have an inherited disease, for example, you could give us a sample of skin cells, we could make a brain and then ask what’s going on,” said Anand.
“In central nervous system diseases, this will enable studies of either underlying genetic susceptibility or purely environmental influences, or a combination,” he said. “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.”
Until further development occurs, the team is using the brain to focus on military research to better understand the effects of PTSD and other traumatic brain injuries sustained in battle.