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Monday, September 2, 2013

Grow your own brain: Recipe below

(Public Domain)
With the era of pet rocks long gone, it's time for a new hobby.  This one's a corker:  mini-brain gardening.

Cameron Scott of SingularityHUB was kind enough to share some tips for beginners.  First you take some "pluripotent human stem cells" (ones that can grow in a specialized fashion)
and plop them into the equivalent of a fancy petri dish.  Then you let them set a spell.

When proto-neural cells start to sprout, harvest them (carefully) onto a "scaffold." Grab your bioreactor and employ it "to improve cellular growing conditions."  Pretty soon, voila!  You are now the proud new owner of "a brain-like organ" complete with "differentiated brain regions."

However, it's important not to get overly attached to the little critter.  This is a kind way of saying that it might not last too long.  Although this mini-brain can actually develop "a cerebral cortex, retina… meninges and
choroid plexus," that's about as far as it's gone to date.  Two months into the process, and the "mini-me" stops dead in its tracks.

Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences attribute this fatal outcome to a lack of "adequate nutrients or oxygen to continue growing."  This is because there was no circulatory system present to nourish the mini-brain's core.

Now why all the fuss over growing your own brain?  Why not something simpler (and perhaps tastier) such as mung bean sprouts?  The answer is profound (and ethically loaded):  mini-brains not only have the potential to help cure complicated diseases, but may also one day serve as brain transplants.


Copyright September 2, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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