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SciShots: Mini-brains

Lab-grown mini-organs are helping scientists understand how our own brains evolved


1 min read

mini brainsOrganoids are miniature versions of organs grown in the lab from stem cells — in many cases, from human stem cells. Unlike individual cells in a petri dish, organoids show complex, 3D interactions between different cell types, closer approximating a real organ in the body. Even though organoids are far simpler than a real organ, scientists are making insights with organoids that weren’t previously possible. Researchers from the Allen Discovery Center for Human Brain Evolution, headquartered at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, are using brain organoids that mimic the structures of the human developing brain to study how our brains develop, how they evolved, and what goes wrong in disease. In this picture, captured by Boston Children’s Hospital Research Fellow Xuyu Qian, Ph.D., neural progenitor cells (red) form the inner layer of the brain organoid, neurons (cyan) form the outer layer, and intermediate progenitor (yellow) makes up a layer in between.

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About the author: Rachel Tompa

Rachel Tompa is a science and health writer and editor. A former molecular biologist, she’s been telling science stories since 2007 and has covered the gamut of science topics, including the microbiome, the human brain, pregnancy, evolution, science policy and infectious disease. During her tenure as Senior Editor at the Allen Institute, Rachel wrote stories and created podcast episodes covering all the Institute’s scientific divisions.

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