Saturday 10 December 2016

Human 'mini-brains' to speed up Alzheimer's research

Sarah Knapton

Published 13/02/2016 | 02:30

A microscopic view of the 'mini-brain' Photo: Thomas Hartung/PA Wire
A microscopic view of the 'mini-brain' Photo: Thomas Hartung/PA Wire

Tiny human mini-brains that can think have been created by scientists to speed up cures for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

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The miniature organs, which are around the size of an insect eye, contain neurons and cells of a human brain and even show evidence of electrical activity, which can be measured.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins in the US say they can be mass produced in labs to allow new drugs to be tested for safety and effectiveness without the need for animals, which often do not mirror how human cells work.

"While rodent models have been useful, we are not 150-pound rats. And even though we are not balls of cells either, you can often get much better information from these balls of cells than from rodents," says study leader Dr Thomas Hartung, MD, PhD, of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Dr Hartung said the brains had even started to produce "a primitive type of thinking".

The brains are made from skin cells of adults, which have been reprogrammed back to a stem-cell like state, then grown into brain cells that then transform into mini-brains within eight weeks.

Irish Independent

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