September 01, 2015

Scientists at the Ohio State University recently reported that an almost fully-formed human brain has been grown in a lab. Engineered from human skin cells, the brain is roughly the size of a pencil eraser. Should this brain become fully formed, it will be the first of its kind. Rene Anand, of the Ohio State University, Columbus, claimed that it is the most complete human brain model yet to be developed. Anand and his associates claimed that they have reproduced 99% of the brain’s diverse cell types and genes, and that their brain also contains a spinal cord, retina, and signaling circuitry. The team of scientists at Ohio State hope this project could transform our understanding of neurological disease.

Though it is not conscious, this miniature brain could have many potential uses, just as umbilical cord blood banking through family cord banking services such as CariCord has many potential uses. The brain resembles that of a 5-week-old fetus, and could possibly be used to aid in the study of developmental diseases, and potentially test drugs that would be used to treat brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Anand claimed that the brain was created by converting adult skin cells into pluripotent cells. These are stem cells that can be programmed to convert into any tissue within the human body. In a similar manner, stem cells collected by family cord blood banking services could be differentiated to form new cells. It takes about 12 weeks for a team to create a brain that replicates the maturity level of a 5-week-old fetus. To further develop this brain, the team at Ohio State would need a network of blood vessels that they currently have yet to produce. According to Anand, to proceed further in their research would require an artificial heart to help the brain develop further.

Skeptics of this research will be comforted to know that the ethical concerns are “non-existent,” according to Anand. “We don’t have any sensory stimuli entering the brain. This brain is not thinking in any way,” he stated.

For now, Anand and his team are focusing on using their brain for military research, primarily to understand how post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries affect soldiers returning home from deployment. Should their research prove to be fruitful, this project could revolutionize personalized medicine. Anand reported that those with inherited diseases could provide a sample of skin cells, which experts could then use to create a brain to determine what is going on within the actual brain of the patient. Like umbilical cord blood and tissue banking from family cord banking services, this could prove to be greatly beneficial to many patients in the future. Though umbilical cord tissue banking does not have tangible benefits today, research is continually advancing through research and clinical trials to find new uses of cord tissue that may be available for human treatment in the future.

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