Lab-grown Minibrains

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Mini Brains grown in the lab may help explain why concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) raise people's risk of dementia.

About Lab-grown Minibrains

  • These are scientifically known as brain organoids, but often called "minibrains" and serve as miniature, simplified models of full-size human brains.
  • How are minibrains made?
    • Scientists typically grow brain organoids from stem cells, a type of immature cell that can give rise to any cell type, whether blood, skin, bowel or brain.
    • The stem cells used to grow organoids can either come from adult human cells, or more rarely, human embryonic tissue.
    • Scientists collect adult cells and then expose them to chemicals in order to revert them into a stem cell-like state. The resulting stem cells are called "induced pluripotent stem cells" (iPSC), which can be made to grow into any kind of tissue.
    • To give rise to a minibrain, scientists embed these stem cells in a protein-rich matrix, a substance that supports the cells as they divide and form a 3D shape. Alternatively, the cells may be grown atop a physical, 3D scaffold.

Application: These organoids can potentially be useful in basic research, drug development and even computer science.

Q1: What are Stem Cells?

These are cells with the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body. Under the right conditions in the body or a laboratory, stem cells divide to form more cells called daughter cells. These daughter cells become either new stem cells or specialized cells (differentiation) with a more specific function, such as blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle cells or bone cells.

Source: Lab-grown 'minibrains' help reveal why traumatic brain injury raises dementia risk