‘Mini-brains’ will add to alternative methods in neuroscience

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have developed ‘mini-brains’. The neurones in these mini-brains spontaneously send electrical signals back and forth, providing researchers with the ability to study neural activity as well as cell functioning.

Image: Thomas Hartung/PA

Image: Thomas Hartung/PA

Lab-grown mini-brains had been developed previously, but the scientists behind this system claim that theirs are more standardised, enabling comparison between healthy and diseased neurone systems. They aim to use the mini-brains to help study nervous system disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism and multiple sclerosis (MS).

While these mini-brains will provide neuroscientists with a useful new tool to complement existing in vitro methods, animal studies will still remain necessary to study the full complexity of a functioning brain with its many cell types, intricate vasculature and elaborate neurochemistry.

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