Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Large scale production and high throughput 3D analysis of lab-grown 'minibrains'

21 June 2021

Small Minded

You might boast of a big brain, but small ones have their uses. ‘Minibrains’ are tiny structures formed of human brain cells, which are used by scientists to study brain function, disease development, and new treatments. They can be used in countless investigations, and can even be grown from individuals’ cells, creating personalised testing grounds for treatments. Despite their comparatively diminutive stature, the minibrains’ internal structure was still hard to discern through the conventional approaches of analysing destructively-obtained slices of material, but a new study has visualised their anatomy in new detail, from the outside. Researchers labelled individual neurons and rendered other areas transparent, so they could see the remarkable complexity within (pictured, with elaborate brain cell projections in green and shorter ones in pink). Observing this 3D morphology will help future studies rapidly assess effects of drugs in many minibrains, hopefully leading to new, tailored treatments for patients.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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