In a groundbreaking new study, scientists have grown mini brains with their own sets of “eyes” that are able to detect light.
While cultivating the spherical masses, known as ‘brain organoids’ in a petri dish from stem cells, the German scientists developed the ‘optic cups’ on the mini-brains also called brain organoids.
What are organoids?
Artificially grown mass of cells or tissue that resembles an organ are called organoids. These organoids are mostly grown in order to be used to study development, disease or the effects of drugs.
What are Brain Organoids?
The spherical masses, known as ‘brain organoids,’ that are cultivated in a petri dish from stem cells, possess the ability to duplicate the functions of any other bodily cell.
The recent brain organoids were developed by the team of German scientists, to help in the study of the brain-eye interactions – during the stage of embryo development, in understanding model congenital retinal disorders, and also in generating patient-specific retinal cell types for personalized drug testing and transplantation therapies.
How were the optic cups made?
Until now, optic cups and other 3D retinal structures had not been integrated into brain organoids. But the team of scientists and researchers at Heinrich-Heine-University’s Institute for Human Genetics in Dusseldorf, Germany used the stem cells to grow brain organoids, that further formed pairs of ‘optic cups’.
These optic cups were equivalent to the early stage of eye formation that develops when a fetus is about five weeks old. In order to achieve this, the team modified a protocol they developed for turning induced pluripotent stem cells into neural tissue.
Eventually, the human brain organoids formed the optic cups, which appeared as early as 30 days and matured as visible structures within 50 days.
Meanwhile, the researchers have published about their new and successful work in the journal called “Cell Stem Cell”, hoping that it proves to be useful for studying the human brain development, particularly during embryonic stages, and related diseases
Jay Gopalakrishnan, of University Hospital Dusseldorf, the lead author of the study said, “Our work highlights the remarkable ability of brain organoids to generate primitive sensory structures that are light sensitive and harbor cell types similar to those found in the body.”
What are the features of the optic cups like ?
The brain organoids are only about three millimeters (0.1 inch) wide, and the optic cups are miniscule, measuring just 0.2 millimeters (0.008 inches) each.
Just like the original human eyes, the optic cups grow as identical pairs and have some traits of real eyes, including corneas, lenses, and rudimentary retinas, which allows them to ‘see’ light. They also develop neurons, nerve cells that allow them to communicate with the main ‘brain.’
The science developed by the German team has the potential to lead the concept of lab-grown retinas to help those with vision loss.
What does the team aim for in the coming future ?
In future studies, the team plans to develop strategies to keep the optic cups viable for longer period of time, using them to investigate mechanisms that cause retinal disorders.