Scientists at The Ohio State University note in a news story from The Ohio State University that they have engineered a near fully formed brain in their lab that contains 99% of the genes in a human fetal brain and is as mature as a 5-week-old fetus.
Engineered from skin cells, the brain is about the size of a pencil eraser and has an identifiable structure, according to the news story.
“It not only looks like the developing brain, its diverse cell types express nearly all genes like a brain,” says Rene Anand, PhD, professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State, in the news story.
Anand and his colleague Susan McKay, a research associate in biological chemistry and pharmacology, developed the brain model using methods to differentiate pluripotent skin cells into neural tissue, components of the central nervous system, or other brain regions, Anand explains in the news story.
It took them about 15 weeks to build a model system developed to match the 5-week-old fetal human brain. They let the model continue to grow to the 12-week point, and observed expected maturation changes along the way.
Their lab-developed brain contains a spinal cord, all major regions of the brain, multiple cell types, signaling circuitry, and even a retina, but is missing a vascular system, the news story continues.
The brain model could be used to test experimental drugs and therapies for such neurological disorders as Alzheimer’s disease and autism. It could also offer a new platform for the study of Gulf War illness, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the news story.
The duo hope that with further development and the addition of a pumping blood supply, their brain model could be used for stroke therapy studies, the news story explains.
“We’ve struggled for a long time trying to solve complex brain disease problems that cause tremendous pain and suffering. 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,” Anand explains in the news story.
“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,” Anand says.
Anand recently reported on his lab-grown brain at the 2015 Military Health System Research Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, per the news story.
[Source: The Ohio State University]