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Apr 27, 2017 09:12 AM EDT

Harvard Scientists Find New Way to Grow Complex Brain Cells in a Dish [Video]

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The moment a young Mark Zuckerberg realises he has been accepted to Harvard

Organoids are organ models that are grown using induced pluripotent stem cells, helping scientists understand brain development and investigate diseases. Brain organoid models can only be cultured for a span of weeks, which is not enough for a more accurate model. Recently, scientists found a way to solve this problem and grow more-mature organoids for better brain disorder research.

Researchers from Harvard University and the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research developed a process that can culture organoids which can grow up to nine months and longer, Harvard Gazette reported. This new protocol can grow human brain organoids into a whole new level of cell maturation. The study published in "Nature" has the largest molecular map of the cell types from brain organoids.

The paper shows a more comprehensive report of the reproducibility and diversity of these brain organoid cell types. It also shows that 3-D brain organoids can model higher-order features of the brain like cellular interaction and neural circuit dysfunction for brain disorder research. In their experiment, the team saw significant developments in brain organoids such as development of cells that are sensitive to light and spontaneously active neural networks.

Harvard Stem Cell Institute co-director of the nervous system disease program Paola Arlotta said they used so many different mixtures of signals to develop pluripotent stem cells to various cell types from the nervous system, which includes astrocytes, neurons, and other more specific types of neurons.

Arlotta, who is also a Harvard professor of stem cell and regenerative biology, said that the brain has countless diverse cell types that connects and interacts with each other, and they want to find out up to what extent of this diversity can be produced in a dish, Stat News reported. Meanwhile, Australia's Institute of Molecular Biotechnology's Juergen Knoblich, who is not part of the study said this new approach has a greater potential than what they thought, since if they can keep growing the brain organoid, it can later on generate the features of a real human brain.

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