According to a recent issue of Brain in the News, scientists at The Ohio State University have created a miniature brain model. It has the maturity of a 5-week fetal brain and is about the size of a pencil eraser. Why the excitement? It has the potential to replicate brains with complex diseases and other conditions. Rene Anand engineered this brain from adult skin cells and is creating “brain organoid” models of autism, as well as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Gulf War diseases. Anand says: “Genomic science infers that there are up to 600 genes that give rise to autism, but we are stuck there. Mathematical correlations and and statistical methods are insufficient to in themselves identify causation. You need an experimental system- you need a human brain.” The researchers are confident that it will speed the process of determining the causal relationships between genes, environment, and/or both.
I continue to rejoice at the acceleration of research that has the potential to improve our quality of life. This one replaces animal research, too. What’s not to love?