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Tiny bare-bones brains made in lab dishes

Simpler version of minibrains responsive enough to use for drug testing

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11:10am, February 14, 2016
minibrain

MODEL BRAIN In this minibrain, nerve cells (red) knit themselves together and send messages. Cell nuclei are shown in blue.  

WASHINGTON — Tiny orbs of brain cells swirling in lab dishes may offer scientists a better way to study the complexities of the human brain. Toxicologist Thomas Hartung described these minibrains, grown from stem cells derived from people’s skin cells, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Insights from experiments on animals are often difficult to apply to humans, Hartung, of Johns Hopkins University, said in a news briefing February 12. “We need something else,” he said. “We are not 150-pound rats.”

These minibrains aren’t flashy. Other minibrain systems created by scientists in the past have complex neural structures and elaborate development (SN: 9/21/13, p. 5), representing the Ferraris and Maseratis of minibrains, Hartung said. In contrast, he said, his minibrains are Mini

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