To achieve greater discoveries in brain research, scientists are going smaller. Labs all over the globe are growing mini-brains from human stem cells to study everything from addiction and disease to concussion and trauma. The tiny neuron clusters have a few advantages over using a single layer of brain cells in a petri dish. Because they develop from stem cells, mini-brains contain many of the different types of cells you'd find in an ordinary human brain, so they behave more like the real thing than a group of one type of cell. The three-dimensional shape also allows more cells to come in contact with one another than they would on a flat surface, so they can exchange more signals and form more circuits. Mini-brains can also be made in identical batches with identical genomes, so they're perfect for the standardized requirements of scientific experiments. But perhaps best of all, mini-brains can lessen the need to do experiments on living animals while still helping researchers make strides in their knowledge about the brain. Brains aren't the only mini organs that are being grown in a laboratory setting. Research teams have also developed miniature 3D versions of human lung, liver, and skin tissue. Learn more about mini-brains and the stem cells that grow them in the videos below.
Why Are Scientists Growing Mini-Brains?
Carl Zimmer explores the how and why of these petri-dish brains.
Mini-Stomachs Made From Stem Cells
Scientists have grown mini human stomachs to study diseases and other issues in the organ.
What Are Stem Cells?
Here's what makes them so important.
The Basics Of Your Brain
A primer on the history of neuroscience and the structure and function of your brain.
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