‘Massive step forward’: Lab-grown mini-brain twitches a muscle

organoid
Brain organoids in a petri dish. Image: UCSD

Floating inside a petri dish in a lab at Cambridge University, a single disjointed muscle twitched.

Normally that’s not news. But in this case, the surgically-dissected muscle is controlled by a slice of isolated brain tissue grown entirely inside the lab.

As creepy as that sounds, the system doesn’t represent consciousness in a jar. Rather, it’s a massive step forward for a technology called brain organoids—cultured brain tissue that remarkably resembles the real thing in a developing human fetus.

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Their system, dubbed ALI-CO, consists of long-lived slices of cultured, lab-grown brain tissue floating on the surface of a warm, bubbling nutrient bath that helps the slices mature into human mini-brains.

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When cultured together with the spinal cord and its supporting muscles isolated from embryonic mice, the mini-brain slices automatically reached out and formed connections called synapses. These human-mice chimeric synapses weren’t just for anatomic show: when stimulated, the highway-like “tracts” of neural connections repeatedly sparked electrical bursts that made the muscles zombie-dance.

Eventually, they may enlighten how neural circuit wiring and information processing gradually emerge in our developing brains, how the process sometimes goes wrong, and how to fix it—long before we’re born.

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Read full, original post: A Lab-Grown Brain Twitched an Isolated Muscle. Here’s Why That’s Amazing

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