Scientists observe neural activity in lab-grown mini-BRAINS (but insist that the simplified organs cannot think for themselves & # 39; think & # 39;)
- The mini brain was grown using what is known as pluripotent stem cells
- These, placed in the right culture medium, can develop into different body tissues
- Scientists say they have observed dynamic changes in network activity
Scientists in Japan have created mini brains with functional neural networks.
These so-called mini-brains, which are more formally known as cerebral organoids, may not be conscious, but their use in the laboratory can provide a key insight into the processes used to encode information, scientists say.
The organoids are essentially a simplified version of the human brain that has been artificially cultured using 3D tissue cultures.
Scientists in Japan have created mini brains with functional neural networks. A brief description is given of the neural network derived from cerebral organoids
They lack more supporting structures such as blood vessels and surrounding tissues and cannot think & # 39 ;.
But they are still capable of some basic neural activity, the researchers say.
The team led by scientists from the University of Kyoto published his findings this week in the journal Stem Cell Reports.
& # 39; Because they can mimic brain development, cerebral organoids can be used as a substitute for the human brain to study complex developmental and neurological disorders & # 39 ;, said corresponding author Jun Takahashi, a professor at the Kyoto University.
The team started with a ball of what is known as pluripotent stem cells, which can develop into different body tissues.
These cells were placed in a dish containing a culture medium that imitated the environment necessary for brain development.
With the grown organoids, the team was then able to observe the activity in the network and the connections between the individual neurons.
& # 39; In our study we have developed a new functional analysis tool to assess the extensive dynamic change of network activity in a detected field, which reflected the activities of more than 1000 cells & # 39 ;, says first and co-corresponding author Hideya Sakaguchi , a postdoctoral fellow at Kyoto University.
& # 39; The interesting thing about this study is that we have been able to detect dynamic changes in calcium ion activity and to visualize extensive cell activities. & # 39;
According to the researcher, the technique can make a broad assessment of neural activity in human cells possible.
This could shed light on the processes behind memory and even the mechanisms of psychiatric illnesses.
But it is not without ethical objections.
& # 39; Because cerebral organoids mimic the development process, one concern is that they also have mental activities such as consciousness in the future & # 39 ;, says Sakaguchi.
& # 39; Some people have referred to the famous & # 39; brain in a vessel & # 39; thought experiment suggested by Hilary Putnam, that brain placed in a vessel of life-supporting fluid connected to a computer can have the same consciousness as human beings. & # 39;
However, the researchers say that an organoid with consciousness is an unlikely scenario given the environment in which they develop.
CAN SCIENTISTS GET HUMAN ORGANS IN THE LABBER?
Human transplants traditionally require the donated organ from a living or deceased owner.
The recipient and the donor must have very similar tissue types to ensure that the organ is not rejected.
While experts try to minimize this risk, organs may fail for several reasons after surgery.
However, certain operations that move a person's tissue to another part of their body in a process called muscoskeletal graft, rarely fail.
For example, in a knee reconstruction, ligaments and tendons can be taken from other areas of the same patient body without fear of rejection.
This is of course impossible for entire organs, but researchers apply the same principle.
By using stem cells taken directly from the patient, scientists can develop these cells into cultures that are genetically identical to the patient.
Currently, technology is still in its infancy and cell cultures remain simple.
However, as the field progresses, there have been some notable moments.
Scientists succeeded in growing human embryonic stem cells for the first time in 1998.
A young boy was healed of his skin condition with an artificial skin that was grown in a laboratory and then applied to his body.
Mice with excess cartilage have been grown to produce human ears and scientists have managed to breed meat from lab cultures without atrocities.
Experts predict that the use of scaffolding or 3D printing foundations would allow the development of complex organs on a macro scale
While they are still developing, the technology is promising for future treatments.
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