Cheap ‘mini-brains’ could re­duce an­i­mal test­ing

Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

IT’S GOOD NEWS for the scare­crow from The Wiz­ard Of Oz: re­searchers at Brown Univer­sity have de­vel­oped a method of grow­ing func­tion­ing ‘mini-brains’.

The lit­tle brain balls can’t think like real grey mat­ter, but they do pro­duce elec­tri­cal sig­nals and form their own neu­ral con­nec­tions, making them a suit­able re­place­ment for an­i­mals in drug test­ing.

To pro­duce the brains, the team iso­lated cells from a small sam­ple of liv­ing tis­sue taken from a ro­dent and placed them into tiny spher­i­cal moulds about 3mm across. The tis­sue be­gan grow­ing within 24 hours and formed com­plex 3D neu­ral net­works in two to three weeks. They can live for up­wards of one month.

Thou­sands of the tiny organoids can be made from a small tis­sue sam­ple, and they cost just 16p each to pro­duce.

“We think of this as a way to have a bet­ter in vitro [in the lab] model that can maybe re­duce an­i­mal use,” said re­searcher Molly Boutin. “A lot of the work that’s done right now is in twodi­men­sional cul­ture, but this is an al­ter­na­tive that is much more rel­e­vant to the in vivo [real life] sce­nario.”

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