Behold, the Human Brain

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ORIGINAL: Serious Wonder
Gabriel Sistare
13. Dec ’13
Behold, the Human Brain
Research scientists at The Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at
the Austrian Academy of Sciences derived segments of a human brain from stem cells
. The study was published in Nature, and it is an early opportunity to experiment using actual human brain tissue cells instead of mice or rat brains.

Juergen Knoblich, an author of the study, calls the tissue “cerebral
,” and they can be cultured for months, eventually growing into whole sections of the brain like the cerebral cortex or portions of the hindbrain.

Although the brain cells can and will be used for diverse
experiments, Knoblich and his team are focusing on replicating the
causes and consequences of brain diseases or disorders like
, a condition of the head having a smaller circumference than the mean.

A segment of the organoids cultured by Knoblich and his team

These cerebral organoids are a huge advantage for neuroscience
researchers. Many experiments with the brain are done using mice or
rats, but these animals are not a perfect simulation of how a human
brain reacts to disease or disorder. With the organoids, scientists can achieve a simulation of a human brain and eliminate animal testing all together.

Growth of human tissue from stem cells is, in general, a tremendous leap for research science and healthcare. The ability to understand the behavior of human cells without experimentation on actual human beings is crucial. We can leave animals well enough alone now, and we can understand our personal biology without having to make assumptions about how a cancerous rat’s brain relates to an affected human brain. With experimentation on human tissue-derived organs, the time it takes researchers to clarify hypotheses and produce valuable material will be dramatically shortened.

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