A rendering of a full-size human brain. Scientists at Ohio State University say the brain they have developed is the size of a pencil eraser. (The unnamed / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Scientists at Ohio State University claim to have taken the unprecedented step of growing an almost fully formed human brain in a lab, an achievement that could transform the medical community’s understanding of neurological disease.

The Guardian reports:

Though not conscious the miniature brain, which resembles that of a five-week-old foetus, could potentially be useful for scientists who want to study the progression of developmental diseases. It could also be used to test drugs for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, since the regions they affect are in place during an early stage of brain development.

The brain, which is about the size of a pencil eraser, is engineered from adult human skin cells and is the most complete human brain model yet developed, claimed Rene Anand of Ohio State University, Columbus, who presented the work today at the Military Health System Research Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. …

Anand and his colleagues claim to have reproduced 99% of the brain’s diverse cell types and genes. They say their brain also contains a spinal cord, signalling circuitry and even a retina. …

According to Anand, it takes about 12 weeks to create a brain that resembles the maturity of a five-week-old foetus. To go further would require a network of blood vessels that the team cannot yet produce. “We’d need an artificial heart to help the brain grow further in development,” said Anand.

The Guardian reports that several researchers contacted by the paper said it was difficult to judge the quality of the work without greater access to the data, which Anand is not making available for the time being because he is seeking a patent on the technique used.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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