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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Stunning New Science – “Mini-brain” Created by Scientists and Stem Cells

Stunning. Using both types of stem cells (embryonic and induced) and a "scaffold and gels, scientists working in Vienna have created a "mini-brain" thought to be somewhat analogous to the brain of a 9 week old fetus. The work was just published in Nature, and some of the work is described in a free article. The full paper is behind a paywall. The story also is covered in an article from the Financial Times.

A key quote from the free Nature article makes the point most relevant to mass tort lawyers:

“It’s a seminal study to making a brain in a dish,” says Clive Svendsen, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study. “That’s phenomenal.” A fully formed artificial brain might still be years away, he notes, but the pea-sized neural clumps developed in this work could prove useful for researching human neurological diseases."

The broader point is that scientists continue to churn out new ways to see and model diseases in new ways. With new cellular and in silico models out there for potential use in testing impacts of products (e.g. drugs, chemicals), risks for manufacturers will increase as to "failure to test" and "failure to warn."

A key quote from the FT article also is interesting:

"They resemble the brain of a nine-week-old embryo with well-defined neural structures, including cerebral cortex and retina. Their neurons show electrical activity, but Jürgen Knoblich, head of the Vienna lab, said this should not be regarded as cognition or thinking.

Dr Knoblich said it might be possible to drive more advanced neural development by giving the organoid a blood supply and sensory inputs, but it would be ethically unacceptable to create a human “brain in a dish” with cognitive activity. “If I wanted to move further in that direction, I would use mouse cells,” he said.

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