Lab Grown Mini-Brain may hold key to Understanding Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Scientists can now study neuronal activity by using stem cells to create parts of brain called organoids.

Researchers from Yale will now be able to study certain parts of the brain due to newly lab developed organoids that grow in Petri dishes. The findings are available in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Using stem cells, scientists created the unique brain regions to better understand the way in which a growing brain balances inhibitory and excitatory neurons. Gaining a deeper knowledge of the processes or the causes of imbalances may help further research into neurodevelopmental disorders, like schizophrenia, autism, and depression.

To observe the developmental process, In-Hyun Park and his Yale colleagues took pluripotent stem cells and grew them to become a human medial ganglionic eminence. This organoid is responsible for making inhibitory neurons and is critical in early cortex development. The second *organoid grown produces excitatory neurons and the two, while further apart in a full sized human brain, were merged together in order for researchers to track the interactions between the two types of neurons more easily.

If researchers can track mechanisms that lead to an excess of excitatory neural activity, what’s thought to cause schizophrenia, doctors may be able to develop better diagnostic tools and treatments. The same is true for depression, which may be caused by the overactivity of inhibitory neurons. Scientists hope that the research will not only clarify the formation of neurodevelopmental disorders but also give insights into the evolution of the vital organ that can help doctors better care for and treat the human brain.

An *organoid is a miniaturized and simplified version of an organ produced in vitro in three dimensions that show realistic micro-anatomy. They are derived from one or a few cells from a tissue, embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells, which can self-organize in three-dimensional culture owing to their self-renewal and differentiation capacities. Via: Wikipedia

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