A group of scientists at a hospital in Germany recently revealed that they were able to grow mini brains with their own sets of eyes in a lab setting. The stem cells in dishes turned into tiny brains. Designed around human brains, the structure developed two optic cups akin to how eyes develop in human offspring. The findings were published on August 17 in the medical journal Cell Stem Cell.
The researchers at University Hospital Dusseldorf have earlier also created tiny beating hearts and even grown mini brains that produce brain waves just like human preterm babies.
Senior author Jay Gopalakrishnan, a researcher at University Hospital Düsseldorf said, “In the human body, through the optic nerve the retina signals to the brain allowing us to see images. However, in the mammalian brain, the nerve fibers of retinal ganglion cells communicate to connect with brain targets.”
Gopalakrishnan also mentioned that previously the scientists had grown optic cups individually in lab settings but this is the first study in which optic cups were integrated into brain organoids.
Further talking about the achievement Gopalakrishnan stated, “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.”
The scientists created a total of 314 mini brains from which 72% developed optic cups. However, these mini brains lack emotion, thoughts, and consciousness. And were used in lab settings what real living human brains would not go through. The reason behind growing mini brains in lab settings is that these organoids can be useful for studying human brain development and related diseases. The new mini brain organoids with optic cups could be used by scientists to study brain-eye interactions during embryo development. Moreover, they can be used to study retinal disorders and maybe even be used to create personalized retinal cell types for therapies. In the near future, the mini brains could save thousands suffering from eye-related ailments.