Mini-Brains In A Dish

Researchers at Stanford University grew two forebrain circuits, measuring only a sixteenth of an inch across.

(Mini-brain grown in a dish)

Dr Selina Wray, Alzheimer's Research UK senior research fellow at UCL Institute of Neurology, said: 'This technology will provide researchers with insights into brain development and disease which have not previously been possible.'

The brains in a dish are the latest advance for stem cell science. Human skin cells are transformed into pluripotent stem cells, capable of becoming any part of the body, using four genes in a petri dish. These help them 'unlearn' that they are skin cells and return to the state of a newborn baby's cells.

The 'culture', or nutrient-rich broth they are grown in, is then altered to determine which type of cell they will become in this case brain cells, or neurons.

The result is a 60-day old forebrain like a baby's in the womb, although more scrambled in its connections. It includes the cerebral cortex, the most highly evolved 'thinking' and decision-making part of the brain.

Science fiction writer Peter Watts saw this future clearly in his 1999 novel Starfish:

The Pacific Ocean slopped two kilometers under his feet. He had a cargo of blank-eyed psychotics sitting behind him. And the lifter was being piloted by a large pizza with extra cheese...

"It's one of those smart gels," Ray said at last... "Head cheese. Cultured brains on a slab. The same things they've been plugging into the Net to firewall infections."
(Read more about cultured brains on a slab)

Via Daily Mail.

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