Brain organoids, tiny clumps of lab-grown human tissue that resemble a human brain, are commonly used for research purposes. Scientists at Ohio State University, however, have grown a brain organoid unlike any other – and it’s one that may lead to advanced research into a wide range of diseases, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Brain injuries
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Parkinson’s disease, for example, is caused by lesions on a part of the brainstem that is largely responsible for regulating motor control and sensory perception; it’s known as the midbrain. Whereas previous organoids have never included the midbrain section, the new Ohio State University organoids contain one. In fact, these newest brain organoids include 98 percent of the same cells that a five-week-old human fetus does.
Studying Organoids: What Scientists Do
In order to properly study advanced aging diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, researchers still need to find a way to expedite the brain organoid’s aging process (this has not yet been accomplished). By watching the way a brain organoid deteriorates, scientists may be able to identify exactly what happens within our own brains with age. Theoretically, scientists could then use this information to find new ways to prevent the harmful effects of aging.
Ohio State University plans to market their creation so that other professionals within the medical industry will be able to join the research. With an international effort, one Ohio State researcher predicts a solution to certain forms of autism within as little as 10 years from now.
Brain organoids are developed using skin cells, so they have the genetic material of the people who provided cells. They’re not functional brains, though – they’re just very similar replicas.
What Do You Think?
How do you feel about scientists testing these 2-millimeter to 3-millimeter-long tissues? Are you optimistic about what could come of it, or are you worried that there may be ethical concerns?