Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Slice of Life

Brain organoids grown as slices survive longer, aiding studies of cell death underlying neurodegenerative diseases

17 November 2021

Slice of Life

Organoids are lab-grown models – they mimic living organs under the microscope, revealing details buried inside the real thing. Scientists are growing brain organoids like this one from cells donated by healthy human volunteers and patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. First, the cells are chemically 'reprogrammed' into induced pluripotent stem cells then coaxed to grow and develop into a mini brain. Here, a new approach grows the organoid as a slice, rather than a ball of cells – bathed from all sides in nurturing chemicals, these artificial brains survive for longer than before. Researchers follow different types of neurons and brain cells (highlighted here in different colours) as they switch on genes and build new proteins. In the diseased organoids, researchers find problems with DNA repair lead to DNA damage and a form of cell death called pyknosis which may give clues to treating disorders like ALS and frontotemporal dementia.

Written by John Ankers

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