Mini-brains advance human brain research
Inexpensive brain model replicates a living brain in key ways.
March 29, 2018
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The human brain contains about 86 billion nerve cells, billions of nerve fibers and trillions of connections between them. To probe this complex bundle, in 2015, NSF-funded researchers developed a 3-D model of about 8,000 nerve and supporting cells, described as a "mini-brain." Unable to think but electrically active, the mini-brain offers an inexpensive, easy-to-make model to study nerve cell networks, the impact of drugs on nerve tissue or nerve tissue transplants. The mini-brain costs about 25 cents to grow.
In 2017, the researchers discovered that the mini-brains produce networks of capillaries, a critical feature needed to study brain conditions, injuries and diseases such as stroke, concussions and Alzheimer's. Researchers can now alter tissue conditions or introduce drugs to observe tissue responses.
Directorate for Engineering