New research shows that lab-grown “cerebral organoids,” similar to miniature brains made from stem cells, show dynamic neural activity despite having no ability to think, CNN reports.
The study was published on Thursday in Stem Cell Reports by researchers at Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application and co-authored by the Salk Institute’s Dr. Hideya Sakaguchi, who is also a postdoctoral fellow at Kyoto University. Sakaguchi told CNN in an email that the creation of the “mini-brain” isn’t the only important aspect of the research; they also created a calcium ion analysis tool to detect nerve cell activity, which may eventually allow scientists to gain a better understanding of complex brain functions as well as neurological disorders.
However, Florida State University’s Yi Zhou, an associate professor of neuroscience and biomedical sciences, told CNN that this study is “not a big breakthrough,” although he did not take part in the study. He said that although the researchers found a unique approach to recording activity in isolated cells of the “mini-brains,” their results don’t hold much value. Zhou also noted that studying calcium ion activity is not the best way of measuring neural activity.
Zhou said that he and his team are currently working on “more sophisticated” and “complex” versions of these “mini-brains” that can actually “mimic human brains.” They sometimes use the cells from patients with Alzheimer’s disease “to see if it develops in a way that is different from a normal brain,” he said. “Can we mimic pathologic conditions?”
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