BY: DANIKA MOIR
Scientists have just recently discovered a new way to grow brain cells that has the potential to cure brain-related diseases. Using adult skin cells, scientists can turn the skin cells into stem cells, which form into neurons. In petri dishes scientists are able to grow brain organoids, which are essentially embryonic human brains.
Growing the brain organoids allows scientists to observe how networks in the human brain develop and function, as well as how they are affected by drugs and genetic modifications. The two-to-three millimetre pieces of human tissue, although small, are a huge stepping-stone in understanding how to cure mental diseases. Since the organoids are grown from an individual’s own skin cells, scientists may be able to make treatments extremely specific to a patient’s condition.
The two-to-three millimetre organoids may be the key to making patient-specific treatments for mental diseases.
Madeline Lancaster and Andrew Jackson used this innovation at the University of Edinburgh to investigate microcephaly, which is a condition associated with incomplete brain development. By using skin cells from the patient, the pair were able to make a culture of organoids that had the same characteristics as the patient’s brain. They were then able to replace a defective protein in the culture that was connected with the disease, and the culture appeared to become partially cured.
Researchers at renowned establishments such as MIT and Johns Hopkins are using this method of growing brain cells to look into the causes and cures of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, epilepsy and autism. The organoids mirror human brain development and take on different characteristics, forming into a small 3D version of a brain. The growth is observed, and if anything goes wrong, scientists will be able to look for causes, mechanisms and treatments for the disease. Hopefully, within the decade, scientists will be able to cure mental diseases with this innovation.
Scientists observe the growth of the brain organoids to look for causes of disease, mechanisms, and possible treatments. Hopefully this will lead to a breakthrough that will cure mental diseases.