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Tiny human brain models grown in lab with tiny cortex, tiny hippocampus (video)

Mat Smith, @thatmatsmith
August 29, 2013
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Mouse brains were the first to be grown, but when it comes to discovering the inner workings of the human brain, as Juergen Knoblich of the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) in Austria put it: "mouse models don't cut it." The institute has managed to grow some adorable-sounding tiny human brain models that include parts of the cortex, hippocampus and retinas through stem cells. The lab-grown tissue will allow researchers to peer into the early stages of human brain development in far higher detail than ever before. Growing the little gray matter samples involved adult cells reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells and giving them a cocktail of vital brain development nutrients.

In under a month, they had grown to between 3 and 4mm across, with several structures that are found in the fully-formed versions. Through imaging techniques, the scientists were even able to pick up neural activity -- we've added the video after the break. The models are already providing insights and new ideas on brain development. According to the New Scientist, if the researchers were able to adjust their techniques to include stem cells that develop into blood vessels, future models could offer more detailed knowledge on conditions like schizophrenia and autism.

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