An Accessible Approach to Making a Mini-Brain

News Brief by Kathryn Gibb

            Researchers at Brown University’s Institute for Brain Science and the Center for biomedical engineering have discovered a more accessible method of creating a miniature brain for research.  While other miniature brains have been created in the past, the research team at Brown claims that this new method will be cheaper and quicker for research labs to make. The paper, written by graduate students Molly Boutin and Yu-Ting Dingle alongside professor Diane Hoffman-Kim, was released in the journal “Tissue Engineering: Part C” at the end of September 2015.  Other biologists and biomedical engineering professors also worked on the project at Hoffman-Kim’s lab. The team worked together to create a 3D model of a brain to study how neural stem cells develop by live tissue from a single rodent. The researchers claim that a small sample of tissue can develop upwards of thousands of mini-brains. This in turn could reduce the amount of animal use in testing.

     Hoffman-Kim claims that the mini-brain, which is the size of about a third of a millimeter in diameter, costs approximately $0.25. The other differences between this cheaper brain and previous models lie in the properties of the new mini-brain. The new mini-brain models have a similar density to that of a natural rodent brain, have diverse cell types, tissue cells that live upwards of a month, electrically active neurons, cell tissues that mimic the mechanical properties of natural tissues, and cells that communicate in a 3D manner. The researchers hope that this new technology will be used in other labs that are interested in studying neural tissue, but lack the advanced equipment or funds to support other advanced methods of creating a mini-brain.

Brown University. "An accessible approach to making a mini-brain." ScienceDaily.    ScienceDaily, 1 October 2015.  <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151001093854.htm>.