One of the biggest obstacles we face in developing new cures for old diseases is that we lose a lot of time and money with testing, not to mention that we put a lot of animals through tests that most often end with them dead. This is because animal brains, despite being similar to ours, don’t really cut it. But what if we had more human brains on which to test these medicines more directly? According to a study from the Johns Hopkins University, a team of scientists developed mini brains grown from stem cells to replace animal testing.
The team of researchers developed the mini brains from stem cells, and they look pretty much like tiny balls of cells. The tiny brains are very small, about the size of a house fly, but despite them being just tiny balls of cells, they do function pretty much like real brains.
Since in about 95% of cases drugs that look like they have a ton of potential when tested on animals tend to fail when tested on humans, leading to huge losses of time, money, and animals, the team decided to create something that would stop that from happening.
Cue the tiny balls of stem cells imitating those of the human brain. In this case, the shape isn’t really important, they just needed the cells to interact with each other and function like our white and gray matter. And despite the fact that it won’t help researchers better understand diseases, they are perfect for drug testing.
By using a Japanese method of deriving stem cells from skin samples, the team managed to basically turn skin cells into stem cells, and then to stimulate them into forming structures like that of a brain in only eight weeks. They grow as big as a house fly, and thousands of them can be grown at the same time.
The mini brains will be used primarily in research, allowing scientists to test medicines for diseases such as Parkinson’s, Autism, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and even strokes and other brain traumas without any unnecessary waste of time, money, and animals.
Because of the huge potential of the creation, the team of researchers is about to start up a spin-off company which would handle the development and speed up the availability of the new tiny brains. Once it becomes more easily available, it will make a huge impact in the world of brain research.
Image source: Pixabay