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Brain Organoids

September 22, 2015

Organized clumps of neural tissue called brain organoids could let researchers study neurological disorders in the laboratory.




Confocal microscopy image illustrating long range organization for neurons (green) and nuclei (blue) within a developing neural construct. (Michael Schwartz/UW-Madison Department of Biomedical Engineering)

Brain organoids. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers have grown organized blobs of brain tissue from stem cells. These so-called “organoids” have neurons, glial support cells, immune cells, and blood vessels. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison biomedical engineer Michael Schwartz says they were able to grow many nearly identical organoids. 

MICHAEL SCHWARTZ (University of Wisconsin-Madison):

And so that allows you to really systematically investigate how these tissues are forming and what might disrupt that formation.


Researchers could use the tissues to test different theories about how neurological diseases develop. Also, Schwartz says the team exposed the organoids to various compounds and were able to determine which ones were neurotoxic. Currently, testing new drugs and chemicals is done on lab animals and cell cultures, which can be unreliable indicators of toxicity in humans. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.