Scientists Say They've Grown Brain
Scientists at Ohio State University say they’ve been able to grow a precise replica of the brain of a five-week-old fetus. Experts say it could help researchers develop a clearer understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and also advance the science of personalized medical treatment.
The size of a pencil eraser, the lab-grown brain is the most fully-formed model ever created, containing 99 percent of the cells that an actual human fetus brain would have, including a spinal cord, the foundations of an eye and signaling circuitry.
The brain was built with adult skin cells altered to become pluripotent stem cells, which can form any type of body tissue. While the precise method for manipulating the skin cells to become brain cells has not been released, the researchers explained that they were able to mature the brain by simulating an in utero environment.
Total brain formation took about 15 weeks, but researchers plan to continue maturing the brain until it resembles that of a 12-week-old fetus. After that stage, the brain would need a blood vessel network and an artificial heart to continue to develop.
The longer the scientists are able to mature the brain, the more they will be able understand the full expression of each human genome, leading to more advanced treatment of developmental diseases. While some question the ethics of brain cloning, the researchers stress that the brains aren’t developed enough to actually have conscious thought.
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