We live in such an amazing time. The concept of growing mini-brains out of stem cells sounds like something out of science fiction to most and might raise the question of “Why” to others. This advancement of being able to create cerebral organdies is a huge step in not only understanding the complexity of the brain but also furthering our ability to manage complex conditions such as autism and schizophrenia. High quality global journalism requires investment. “What made the observations particularly exciting is that cells from a patient with a severe disorder of brain development [microcephaly] developed into an abnormal organoid with features analogous to many of those in the patient,” said Paul Matthews, professor of clinical neuroscience at Imperial College London. “The investigators then showed that these abnormal features could be ‘cured’ by replacing the defective gene.”
The scientists in Vienna grew mini-brains from both human, embryonic stem-cells and “induced pluripotent stem-cells” derived from adult tissues. They first converted the stem cells into neuro-ectoderm, the cell layer from which the nervous system develops, in a special culture medium.
Pieces of neuro-ectoderm were transferred to a gel scaffold that permitted 3D growth, nourished in a spinning bioreactor. The organoids stopped growing after two months, when they reached about 4mm in diameter, because they lacked the blood supply required for further development.