Although a fully-formed artificial brain is still a long way off, scientists have found that they can assemble stem cells into ‘brain-like chunks of tissue’. Stem cells are cells that can change into any kind of cell in a living organism. This development could one day help scientists to develop new drugs to treat conditions like epilepsy.
The tissue chunks are only around three to five millimeters in size. They have neurons that ‘talk’ to each other by firing electrical signals, although they are incapable of actual thought. The tissue chunks are also of no use for transplants or to help repair damaged brains.
The scientists ‘grew’ the mini brains in a laboratory, using nutrients. They were able to model key aspects of microephaly. Microcephaly is a disorder of brain development. They did this so they could better understand the condition.
The researchers are being led by Juergen Knoblich, a developmental biologist at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, Austria.
Image: courtesy of IMBA/Madeline Lancaster