A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) have developed mini-brains that could help to a better understanding of neurological diseases like Alzheimer and Parkinson. Hopefully, this new method could speed up the research for the troubling diseases.
The mini-brains are in deep tiny and barely visible to the naked eye. The model can actually function and interact similarly to a real human brain, as reported by UPI news.
Cells from the skin of several healthy adults were used to created the mini-brain. The team used those adult cells and then genetically reprogrammed them into an embryonic stem cell-like state and later stimulated them to grow as brain cells, according to the press release from JHU.
The scientist will be presenting the model at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on February 12. The team hopes that testing drugs and investigating how neurological diseases work will be more effective as scientists study them on the mini-brain instead of animals.
“Ninety-five percent of drugs that look promising when tested in animal models fail once they are tested in humans at great expense of time and money,” said study leader Thomas Hartung, professor of environmental health sciences at the Bloomberg School in the press release.
Hartung also said that while rodent models have been useful, humans are not 150-pound rats. Even though humans are not balls of cells either, scientists can get much better information from those balls of cells than from rodents, he added.
Various diseases can be studied in the brain, according to Hartung. For the first model they used cells from healthy adults, but cells from people with certain genetic traits or certain diseases can be used as well to simulate a brain to study the reaction of various types of pharmaceuticals.
Not only studies of Alzheimer and Parkinson could be covered, but multiple sclerosis and even autism as well. The mini-brains can also help to study viral infections, trauma and strokes but this research has just started.
Source: Johns Hopkins University