How to make a better model brain – shaking brain cells helps them clump
Studying an organ as overwhelmingly complicated as the human brain is a daunting task, but innovative tools are helping scientists to unlock new information. One important technique is the development of brain organoids: aggregates of cells derived from human stem cells, induced to mature into cell types found in the brain, such as neurons (pictured in green, in a 75-day-old brain organoid) and supportive astrocytes (in red). Allowing researchers to carry out laboratory tests on brain-like structures, organoids are proving useful in the study of conditions ranging from autism to infection with the Zika virus. To make an organoid, cells are gently mixed in a nutrient-rich liquid, encouraging them to clump together. Researchers recently developed more cost-effective methods of achieving this, using equipment known as orbital shakers to agitate plates of cells on a rotating surface. As techniques continue to improve, brain organoids will become increasingly valuable for neurological research.
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