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This article was published in August 2013. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

Scientists build ‘mini brains’ in lab

29 Aug 2013

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.

Read the story on the Nature website.

Image: courtesy of IMBA/Madeline Lancaster

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