This Lab-Grown Brain Made a Muscle TWITCH, Here’s How

This Lab-Grown Brain Made a Muscle TWITCH, Here’s How


Scientists have just grown one of the most
sophisticated mini brains in a petri dish! But even crazier, the mini brain attached
itself to a spinal cord and muscle tissue that twitched! Granted, this tiny brain was about the size
of a lentil, but this still holds incredible promise for the future of how we study our
brains. Now, you might be wondering why would we grow
brains in the first place. Well in the past, scientists were confined
to studying the brain during autopsies, but observing a dead brain could only get us so
far. What neuroscientists really want to know is
how the human brain and nervous system develop. Yes, we have MRI’s, EEGs and CT scans etc.,
which capture brain activity and have taught us a lot about what we know today. But this new method brings us one step closer
to trying to understand the cause and possibly find treatments for neurological disorders. Officially called, cerebral or brain organoids,
these 3D tissues are generated from human stem cells which allow modelling of brain
development in vitro. Essentially allowing scientists to monitor
brain development in a petri dish. Now, we’ve been able to grow these organoids
for a number of years, but this is the first time that we’ve been able to attach a spinal
cord to the tissue and see muscles contract. So how did they do it? Well, it all begins with stem cells taken
from skin samples. The stem cells are placed into 3D culture,
where they undergo the initial phases of embryonic development. Next, they’re implanted in droplets of Matrigel,
a gel containing proteins that support the cells growth. The droplets were then placed into an orbital
shaker to help stimulate the stem cells to transform and grow into the ball-like clusters
of neural tissue. This is where researchers had been running
into problems. Previously, once the organoid reached a certain
size, its center wouldn’t get as many nutrients or oxygen, putting an end to its growth. And This where the new research comes in. The scientists used an “air-liquid interface
culture”, allowing the tissue access to the nutrient rich-liquid below and the oxygen
above. To demonstrate this, they used a tiny slice
of organoids on a porous membrane, surrounded by a nutritious solution. This allowed for the mini-brain model to develop
in the dish for up to a year, thus producing more sophisticated and mature organoids. The next step was to monitor the neural activity
of the mini brain model. In order to do that, the researchers placed
a spinal cord and some back muscle from a mouse’s embryo next to the mini brain to
observe whether or not its neurons would grow out to connect with them. Over the next 2 to 3 weeks, the neurons did
just that and connected with the spinal cord to send out electrical impulses. And guess what happened?! THE MUSCLES TWITCHED! It’s the first time cerebral organoids had
demonstrated an ability to control muscle movement. This new discovery also furthers our knowledge
into understanding how neurons connect up inside the brain and with the spinal cord. The models can also allow scientists to monitor
the progression of certain neurological disorders like schizophrenia and autism, conditions
where neuronal connections are believed to be damaged. But growing mini brains hasn’t come without
controversy. Some believe that regulations must be drawn
in order to address the future implications of this type of research. For example, could these brains develop consciousness? Well, at their current size, no. The mini-brain is still only pea-sized and
contains about a couple of million neurons, now I know that sounds small, but it’s actually
twice the number of neurons in a cockroach’s brain. Which suffice to say, is still pretty far
away from a fully developed human brain that has over 80 BILLION neurons. Which is why the researchers acknowledge that
their mini brain is far from reaching consciousness. But what happens when these mini-brains continue
to grow in size and complexity, will it become an issue then? It’s a question that some ethicists are
pushing to find the answer to especially as the research is moving so quickly. But as research progresses, these miniature
brains can start helping us to better understand the fundamental questions about our brains. So what do you think? Should we be growing brains in a petri dish? Let us know in the comments below and don’t
forget to subscribe to Seeker for more science in your day and thanks for watching Seeker.

100 Replies to “This Lab-Grown Brain Made a Muscle TWITCH, Here’s How”

  1. Just using this science we can artificially create life, and we can create organisms that are specifically designed to prevent and attack diseases, cure disorders, and many more life-saving creatures. If we desired it, we could create a race far superior to our own.

  2. You guys said that it has twice as many connections as a cockroach, does that mean that it’s twice as smart? And does that mean that cockroaches don’t have consciousness? This is actually fascinating to me!

    Edit – I’m totally gonna have to follow this program to see what they do in the future because this is super cool 😀

  3. Why stop progress? We don’t know what the human race is capable of, extinction? Sure, of course it is. Hell the earth is already dying but, even so why not go out with a bang? Or create something so smart that will be able to help us create a solution to our problems? We don’t know where the “soul” comes from, maybe this’ll be a way to figure that out. Learn what makes a being well a “being”. Religion and this whole “don’t play god” has stopped so much progress in science.

  4. Once the organoids reach a certain level of complexity, you get presented with a weird moral dilemma. Does that brain feel anything? If so, how terrifying it must be to be stuck on a petri dish with no body and basically no senses!

  5. Even if we did develop the technology to "repair" or "fix" autism, it would probably have horrible consequences for the patient. Think of it as computer architecture, autism as ARM or Apple / IBM PowerPC (Yes, they are different, but for the sake of this argument they are the same) and the average human brain as Intel or AMD (x64, x86 or x32). No programs from ARM or PowerPC can be directly run on Intel or AMD computers. What if this is the case with "converting" autistic people, and they just became cabbages or their brains became "corrupted". I'm not saying any of this is correct because I don't know everything about neural science, but maybe I'm correct.

  6. – can't rigorously define what consciousness is

    – grown brain isn't conscious

    Only one of these statements can be true at the same time.

  7. How do they know it's not conscious if nobody really understands consciousness? I would consider cockroaches conscious. Or should we be more concerned about that mouse embryo? Or that this is a mouse/human hybrid experiment? I think we should focus more on in-vitro meat that's edible.
    I know this isn't 3d printing, but I can't stop thinking about "want to print a brain?" now.

  8. Beware in the future of human sized brains with a very flexible brain stem will soon start a millitia for the future of brain rights if they don’t listen to them the easy way they’ll just have to *teach* them the hard way.

  9. research shows that autism doesn't occur from damaged neuron connections… it's actually been linked to neuroplasticity, the ability to make new connections.

  10. I don't understand why people act like the morale dilemma is new.
    We make human-lab-babies, and then murder them for stem-cell research, and have been doing that for decades.
    Also, there are mentally handicapped people with not many more active neurons that that. If it's ethical to kill a fetus or significant sized-lab-grown brains, it's ethical to shoot a retarded person for firearm testing.

    Not a pleasant simile, but an accurate one.

  11. Look up “Covetous flash game” here on YouTube then imagine it’s about these stem cell-made brains. So creepy.

  12. I really hope they tread lightly with this as it could have severe moral consequences. I love all of the mad scientist-type discoveries but it can get to a point where the cruelty outweighs the benefits.

  13. 1900's: Growing brains? Nah that's fiction. You have been reading way to many novels
    2000's: Apparently it isn't
    3000's: Now we can make new species of animals that haven't been seen before.
    4000's: Now we can live forever and chill with Elon Musk the III on a mini globe inside of a mini arena that can host Movie Monster Battles except we can see it live and know they are real animals. Ahhhh the good life
    100000's: chu' Hol jatlh maH DaH

  14. I’m going to dump all my investments into this, and cross my fingers for that impending zombie apocolypse!

  15. Who's to say the small brain won't turn on us in the future?
    Think about what if the brain becomes smart and learns from the scientist and realize that they're playing God?
    Lmao I'm stupid don't listen to me

  16. Certainly the number of neurons are not the only indicator for potential consciousness. Take the elephant, blue whale or such large mammals, they haven't achieved anything akin to human consciousness. There certainly is more direction in the human evolution of consciousness against evolution of physical superiority for success. What's to say that a brain much smaller cannot achieve a state comparable to consciousness?

  17. Hoo boy, the anti-science committee's gonna have a field day with this. grabs some popcorn and sits with Switzerland

  18. I have a question ? Can we change the genetics of a stem cell that is old and cannot duplicate by giving it a new genome or DNA

  19. Ethicists? Tell them to go die! Science is all about curiosity, experiments, and continuing with successful researches!

  20. How many zombie movies have scientest doing this? There arent any yet? There will be soon. It'll be like a pov. Where the grown brain hijacks a body grabs a camera and shows us why this was a bad idea.

  21. How about cloning body parts, in my case, a pancreas (islans of langerhans ) to get insulin without rejection? For all diabetics.

  22. Autism isn't caused by damage; it's linked to having too many synaptic pathways. Usually, about half of them get pruned when we're really young, but not for autistic people

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