Scientists have for the first time raised pea-sized electrical activity, brain-developed brains and paved the way for models of neurological conditions and answered fundamental questions of our gray matter development. It is unclear whether the mini-brains are aware – the team behind the success suspects they cannot say for sure – are moving into this area of research, opening up a new ethical dimension.
The so-called “brain organos” derived from adult stem cells have been around for a decade but never before have functional neural networks developed.
“If you would have asked me five years ago, would you have thought that a brain organoid would have a sophisticated network capable of generating brain oscillations, I would say no,” Elson Muotri, a biologist at the University of California San Diego, told AFP Told .
A letter published by Muotri and his colleagues in the journal Cell Press on Thursday stated that part of the success is the result of improved processes for developing stem cells, including optimization of the culture medium formula.
The other part was initially surprising, but also intuitive when researchers thought about it: just allow enough time for neurons to develop, just as the brains of unborn babies develop in the womb.
The team began detecting the explosion of brain waves from organoids for about two months.
The signals were sparse and had the same frequency, a pattern seen in very immature human brains. But as they continued to grow, they produced brain waves at different frequencies, and signals appeared more regularly, suggesting further development of their neural networks.
Early organoids were used to explain that physiological malformations occur when the brain is exposed to diseases such as the zika virus.
But there are neurological conditions such as autism, epilepsy, and even psychopathology, where problems arise from distortions of the brain network, not from malformations.
By building brain organoids from the stem cells of individuals with these conditions, scientists can model them better and perhaps one day find a cure.
They also hope to answer more fundamental questions. Muotri said that organization development won for about nine to 10 months.
“I’m curious about it. I wonder if it’s because we don’t have a system of nutrients to take the nutrients in, or it could be that we’re lacking stimulation as sensory input Are “.
He hopes to test both hypotheses.
Regarding whether the parts of the brain are conscious, Muotri said that he suspects that it is not in its early stage of development.
“But if you ask me, ‘How do you know?’ I would say that I have no evidence, because we do not even know how to detect consciousness in other systems, ”he said.
“All these ethical questions will appear as we get closer to the human mind,” he admitted, proposing the field is a regulation of animal testing in the same way.