Scientists are in the laboratory & # 39; brain & # 39; has grown that have similar activity to the brains of premature babies, according to a new study.
It is not entirely thinking, but the researchers say that regions of the small laboratory brain communicated with each other, a characteristic that makes them a great way to study how the human brain develops in action.
Many psychiatric and neurological disorders begin before birth or in childhood, but their roots are difficult to study in human babies.
The University of California, San Diego, research team is optimistic about the possibilities their brain organoids offer to understand these disorders, but they also know that they can follow a thin line between scientific research and awareness.
Small brain-like organoids have similar electrical activity in brain scans (photo) what would be expected in the brain of a premature baby, a new UC San Diego study reveals
UC San Diego is not the first laboratory to grow brain-like organs in Petri dishes.
But unlike previous laboratory brains, theirs have much more complicated structures.
Using stem cells, the researchers adjusted petri dish conditions to encourage the cells to change into brain tissue rather than into another organ.
It is the starting point for growing every organ in the laboratory, the UC San Diego team had devised a new solution for the brain to grow in – a solution that they hoped would be almost identical to the conditions under which the human brain is developing.
For 10 months they saw hundreds of petri dishes bloom in a small brain.
The team used electrodes to check the organoids for signs of activity, because the human brain only works when the different regions talk to each other.
According to the new study, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, the new brain had complex neural networks – information highways that connect brain cells.
That meant that the laboratory brain had reached about the same stage of development as a premature baby.
& # 39; The level of neural activity we see is unprecedented in (the lab) & # 39 ;, said biologist and lead author of the study Dr. Allyson Muotri of UC Davis.
For scientists, this can mean they can see the human brain in real time & # 39; grow up & # 39 ;.
& # 39; You can use brain organoids for a variety of things, including understanding normal human neurological development, disease modeling, brain evolution, drug screening and even to inform artificial intelligence, & # 39; explained Dr.
But she and her colleagues are keenly aware of the slippery slope toward creating life they should avoid – and say that the & # 39; brain & # 39; from the laboratory are still far removed from consciousness.
& # 39; The organoid is still a very rudimentary model – we have no other brain parts and structures. So these brain waves may not have anything to do with real brain activities, & # 39; said Dr. Muotri.
Eugenics and concern about scientists playing god have been back in the spotlight in recent years with the evolution of CRISPR gene processing technology.
Last year, Chinese scientists announced the birth of twin girls whose genes they had modified to protect them from inheriting HIV.
Shortly after their initial research into the same gene, they suggested that it could also change their brain development, thereby raising concerns that science could be over-fueled.
& # 39; As a scientist, I want to get closer to the human brain & # 39 ;, says Dr. Muotri.
& # 39; I want to do that because I see the good in it. I can help people with neurological disorders by giving them better treatments and a better quality of life. & # 39;
She and her team want to take all precautions to ensure that they do not cross the line between improving human life and creating in the lab.
& # 39; It is up to us to decide where the limit is, & # 39; she said.
& # 39; It may be that the technology is not yet ready, or that we do not know how to control the technology.
& # 39; This is the same type of discussion about CRISPR in babies & # 39; s and therefore we have ethics committees that represent all parts of society. & # 39;
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