Mini-Brains: Can They Lead to Prevention/Cure for Alzheimer’s?

A colorized scanning electron microscope image of a neuron (orange) interfaced with the nanowire array. (Integrated Electronics and Biointerfaces Laboratory, UC San Diego )

Health Editor Note: These tiny orgainoids (mini-brains) are used to study degenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s), genetic diseases, and the major psychiatric disorders which are not able to be researched using animals. Any leg up we can get towards preventing and or treating Alzheimer’s would be intensely valuable to humankind. With an estimated 5.8 million Americans (of all ages) having Alzheimer’s, this is clearly a disease that we need to be able to control…..Carol 

Miniature Brains Recently Sent Out Brain Waves for the First Time

by Thiago Arzua/Massive Science

We are in a boom of organoids. New and exciting advancements are approaching quickly with these tiny, model organs. Perhaps the most intriguing: the brain organoid. First described in 2013, these so-called “mini-brains” have been used to model and study genetic diseases, major psychiatric disorders, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, and even human evolution.

Mini-brains are just the size of a pea but capable of reproducing key brain functions. They are currently a hot research topic because scientists think they can eventually be a model for neurological diseases that we are currently not able to properly study in rodents or other animals.

While previous studies have successfully shown changes in genes and proteins associated with such diseases, studying the functionality of diseased brains — how our neurons work and interact with other cells during disease — remains a challenge.

Neurons communicate by sending electrical signals to other cells, so to fully understand how they work, you must study how the cells are performing electrically. Scientists already knew that mini-brains were capable of generating these electrical signals, called spontaneous action potentials, but there is a wide gulf between simple action potentials and complex thoughts.

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