Lab-Created Test Tube Brains Help Scientists Understand the Onset of Congenital Diseases

Scientists have long been working to understand “smooth brain syndrome,” a congenital defect that affects 1 out of 30,000 babies annually and results in developmental disabilities and low life expectancy. Israeli researchers from the Weizmann Institute have literally grown new means of understanding how the brain folds by creating a miniature brain in a test tube, which can be studied under a microscope. The organoid evolves from embryonic stem cells and begins as a round, flat structure with a thin space in the middle. Within two weeks, wrinkles begin to form and deepen, just as they do in a human brain. Another organoid was then developed and injected with the smooth brain gene for comparison. This gave researchers the opportunity to examine the biophysics of cells in tiny brains with the mutated gene that were characterized by a softer overall structure and a smoother construct. The findings of the study on the properties of organoid development were published in the journal, Nature Physics, and will hopefully act as a springboard from which scientists can better understand the development of other neurological disorders, such as microcephaly, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.