Tiny, lab-grown brains allow researchers to explore what makes humans different

mini brains
Image: Muotri Lab/UCTV

Researchers are growing human, ape, and monkey brain tissue in the lab in order to understand what makes us different. Human brains are clearly unique in some way, given that we’re the only animal that can make and post memes online and fly into space. But questions still surround why we’re different from our close relatives, the other great apes.

One team of scientists hopes to explore the subject in a way that only humans can: with the help of genetic sequencing and organoids, miniature organs grown from stem cells in petri dishes.

The researchers observed for four months as the human, macaque, and chimpanzee brain organoids grew and the cells began to take on rolls. They took samples to profile the RNA in the individual cells—essentially, which parts of the DNA the cell is actually using to make proteins, and how that differs between cells. Using this data, they created an “atlas” of the human-specific genes and the genetic mechanisms that altered the cells’ appearances during development.

Related article:  Prehistoric 'chewing gum' contains Neolithic girl's DNA, allowing scientists to reconstruct her face

[T]he researchers behind the new paper hope that they’ve produced a resource that others can use to further explain what makes us human.

Read full, original post: Scientists Use Lab-Grown Brains to Study What Makes Us Human

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