No, mad scientists weren’t involved in growing a pea-sized human brain in a laboratory. Maybe ones who are a little crazy about using the mini-brain they grew to research birth defects, schizophrenia, and autism, among other disorders affecting human brains — but, not mad.
The scientists are attempting to do nothing less than to transform the entire study of neurological disorders with the creation of the pea-sized brain. It’s a lofty goal, but they just might succeed at doing that, because the growth of the mini-brain will be very useful for conducting research of all types into brain developments and brain disorders.
The tiny pea brains are not advanced enough to process thoughts. The scientists have managed to grow them to about the size and development level as a two-month-old fetus.
Who are the scientists behind the growth of the pea-sized human brain?
The group of scientists behind the creation and growth of the pea-sized brain are from the Austrian Academy of Sciences. They are made up of biologists at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, and the study that they wrote about growing the mini-brain from human stem cells was published recently in the scientific journal, Nature. These intrepid individuals, pioneers in the science of neurology, have already used the mini-brain to do research on defects in brain development.
The scientists also plan to use the pea-sized brain to research schizophrenia, autism, and other disorders of the brain.
What did the scientists grow the pea-sized brain in?
The scientists grew the relatively uncommon human organ in a very common container you’ve likely seen and possibly used in school experiments: a petri dish.
Yes, the same type of container you may have used in an experiment to grow mold, breed one-celled organisms, and used as visual elements in science fairs.
It turns out, these highly versatile containers are also ideal for growing wee tiny brains, the size of a pea. No self-respecting zombie would snack on them, as one would be too small to satisfy their insatiable hunger.
Still, the tiny brains are ideal for conducting research. It should come as good news to science hobbyists that complicated expensive equipment isn’t necessary to grow your own brain — just pop out to your friendly neighborhood laboratory supply store, or buy petri dishes online. Satisfy your inner mad scientist.
The mini-brain the scientists grew is only about 3 to 4 millimeters in size. It doesn’t look much like any human brains that you might have seen before; it’s really more like three dimensional sections of tissue.
The pea-sized human brain does have distinct regions to it that are easily identifiable, if you’re into neuroscience. You can make out the ventral forebrain, the dorsal cortex, and even an immature retina, it you know what to look for.
According to Popular Science, study coordinator Juergen Knoblich says of the mini-brain’s organization:
The parts are correctly organized, but not put together.”
Knoblich contiued, saying the mini-brain was like a car:
…where you have an engine, you have the wheels — but the engine is on the roof… that car would never drive, but you could still take that car and analyze how an engine works.”
It just goes to show that even a pea-brain can benefit science. Be the first one on your block to grow your own human brain inside your basement lab or hollow mountain lair.
Written by: Douglas Cobb