It’s quite astonishing, the spectacular powers of the brain. In this small little powerhouse within our skulls, we’ve acquired the skills to operate a computer, learn complex algebra, and memorize infinite amounts of information. Yes, the brain in all its glory – truly amazing.
It’s not just me; countless others take great fascination on the brain as well. If you observe the trends, you’ll see that neuroscience has taken a life of its own, so to speak. The White House is spending millions of dollars into mapping the human mind. There are so many studies and experiments going into the field of neuroscience, and one in particular, is weirdly fascinating.
In Europe, a small team of researchers, on trying to understand how the brain functions, were able to grow their own brain in a lab. From the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, they were successful in recreating pea-size brains on a petri dish.
These “Mini-minds,” as they called it, have roughly the same cognitive abilities as a 9-week-old fetus. They have reached a maximum size of 4mm (0.1in) in just two months, but have survived for nearly a year already.
This brings remarkable developments, since in the past organoids have been developed such as the kidneys, the eyes, and intestines. However, this is in fact the first time in which a brain has been grown in the laboratory.
What are the applications of such a ridiculous thing though? Well, at the moment, tests are being done with rats or mice, which isn’t exactly ideal. Although, we share common similarities, there are still stark differences between mice and humans. A brain like this is good for model development of the brain and for studying defects in development.
“Ultimately, we would like this contribution to science to be a stepping stone when studying more common disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. They manifest as adults, but typically already show defects during the development of the brain.”
– Dr. Zameel Cader, lead researcher
Well, although it might be a long way from a completely complex, functional brain, to the neuroscientists waiting for a breakthrough that will propel the field into infinity and beyond, this might just be it.