Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Brain 'organoid' – lab-grown nerve cell clumps – that forms the eye's retinal tissue

05 September 2021

Jeepers Peepers

It’s impossible to study a living human brain without it being inside a living human person, which of course limits the types of experiments it is feasible and ethical to perform. Researchers have therefore developed brain organoids – cultured brain cells derived from human stem cells that develop and connect with each other to form mini brain-like clumps. Brain organoids have revolutionised neuroscience and, thanks to a recent development, are now set to become even more valuable. Scientists have found a way to prompt brain organoids to develop optic cups (the two dark spots in the organoid pictured). The cups contain an array of retinal cell types, some of which are responsive to light, that can form neural networks within the organoid. By mimicking natural eye development, the process will allow researchers to investigate retina formation, how it can go wrong, and to test new drugs for retinal diseases.

Written by Ruth Williams

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