Japanese scientists grow a functioning mini-brain from stem cells

Scientists have long been improving technologies for growing simplified versions of human organs in the laboratory. They are now mainly used to test new pharmaceuticals and various treatments.

However, Physics World reports that a group of Japanese researchers have managed to create a mini-brain that not only has an authentic three-dimensional structure, but also demonstrates coordinated neural activity.

The mini-brain was grown from pluripotent stem cells taken from an adult, which are capable of becoming any type of cell. After the brain cell array was grown, the scientists placed it in a Petri dish, where the cells independently formed neural networks that resemble the cerebral cortex.

Using the brain as an example, scientists have clearly shown that they can successfully restore an organ literally from scratch. Artificial neurons behave in the same way as natural ones, although they are not able to turn into a full-fledged organ.

The research results will help to better understand neurological conditions without the need to dissect the real brain. In this case, the mini-brain is more of a research tool that enables scientists to understand the processes taking place in our central nervous system.