Scientists Grew a Brain-Like Blob With Primitive Eyes

Home Technology Scientists Grew a Brain-Like Blob With Primitive Eyes
Scientists Grew a Brain-Like Blob With Primitive Eyes
A brain organoid with developed optic cups.
A brain organoid with developed optic cups.
Image: Elke Gabriel (CC BY-NC-SA)

Now the stem cells are just showing off. An international team of researchers say they’ve developed a lab-grown mass of tissue that mimicked a brain and was able to spontaneously produce two symmetrical optic cups, eye-like structures sensitive to light. But don’t worry—these rudimentary organoids are not conscious.

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The researchers used pluripotent stem cells—so named for their ability to create a multitude of cells that occur naturally in the human body—to better understand how the body develops; the brain is especially useful as arguably the most important organ in shaping our species. Stem cell therapies have previously restored the olfactory system in mice and given the animals part-human brains. The recent mini-brain, which modeled the way eyes develop in human embryos, was described in a study published last week in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

“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,” said Jay Gopalakrishnan, a biologist at the University Hospital Dusseldorf and a co-author of the paper, in a Cell press release. “These organoids can help to study brain-eye interactions during embryo development, model congenital retinal disorders, and generate patient-specific retinal cell types for personalized drug testing and transplantation therapies.”