Cheap ‘mini-brains’ could reduce animal testing
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.”