In the lab, drug testing, neural tissue transplants and brain experiments involving stem cells are usually performed on lab rats.
Now researchers from Brown University have developed a method that gets around animal testing. They created a simple and inexpensive way to grow tiny balls of living neurons that form networks and are electrically active.
Rat Limb Grown In The Lab
The living “mini-brains” are excellent testbeds for neuroscience research. What’s more, a small sample of living tissue from a single rodent can make thousands of these brain balls for about 25 cents each.
“We think of this as a way to have a better in vitro model that can maybe reduce animal use,” said graduate student Molly Boutin, co-lead author of the new paper in the journal Tissue Engineering: Part C.
The mini-brains, about a third of a millimeter in diameter, are made by isolating and concentrating the desired cells and then adding them like seeds to a culture in a spherical mold. It takes about two to three weeks for the cells to grow into a complex 3-D neural network.
According to the press release, the mini-brains are not the first or the most sophisticated clump of brain tissue out there, but they’re grown in fewer steps and cost just pennies to develop.