Growing human organs outside of the body is more reality than science fiction these days. We have seen researchers reproduce a human heart from bicep muscle cells at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and grow stomachs and intestines in the labs of the University of Cincinnati. Now The Ohio State University is taking on the challenge of recreating the human brain.
The brain is in many ways more complicated than most human organs, which of course makes it a research goal for many top-notch scientists. As Ohio State professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology Rene Anand puts it in a recent OSU press release, “The brain has been the holy grail because of its enormous complexity compared to any other organ. Other groups are attempting to do this as well.”
Anand decided to meet this lofty task by taking “baby steps,” that is, by first trying to grow a fetal brain. There are several unsolved mysteries about the brain in this early developmental state, such as the nature of the onset of autism. In Anand’s mind, there’s simply no adequate replacement for a physical brain.
“Genomic science infers there are up to 600 genes that give rise to autism, but we are stuck there. Mathematical correlations and statistical methods are insufficient to in themselves identify causation. You need an experimental system – you need a human brain.”
So far, Anand and his team have successfully developed a brain that matches the brain of a 5-week-old. The professor is filing for patents and is even founding a start-up called NeurXstem in order to commercialize his discovery. Soon he’ll be able to make several copies and begin testing on them to discover more about mysteries like autism.
This work was partly funded by the Marci and Bill Ingram Research Fund for Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Research Fund. For more details on funding for research at Ohio State University, peruse our Ohio State University Funding Report:
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