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Animal-Free Lab-Grown Human Brain Organoids Bring Opportunities for Neuroscience

By: April Carson

Scientists have developed a groundbreaking technique to cultivate human brain organoids, known as lab-grown mini-brains, entirely without the use of animal cells. This remarkable advancement holds immense promise for advancing the study and treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, offering a more precise and comprehensive understanding of these conditions.

Moreover, the ability to grow these miniature models of human brains without any animal components could enable researchers to gain greater insights into brain development and behavior.

Brain organoids were previously grown using a mouse sarcoma-derived substance called Matrigel, which caused inconsistencies and variability due to its undefined composition. However, a new method has been developed that utilizes an engineered extracellular matrix without any animal components. This breakthrough improves the neurogenesis of brain organoids, making them even more promising for research and medical advancement.

The development of animal-free brain organoids brings neuroscience a step closer to understanding complex neurological diseases and developing safe treatments. Furthermore, it could revolutionize the way we study and treat mental illness by providing researchers with unprecedented access to lab-grown brains.

This significant advancement enables the precise replication of human brain conditions, paving the way for personalized treatment options for neurodegenerative diseases like ALS and Alzheimer's. These groundbreaking developments hold immense potential for improving patient care and advancing our understanding of these complex conditions.

Ultimately, animal-free lab-grown brain organoids will contribute to an era of personalized medicine tailored to each individual's unique neurological makeup. This could not only revolutionize our understanding of the human brain but also significantly improve treatments for neurodegenerative disorders.

Scientists from the University of Michigan have devised a groundbreaking technique for cultivating human brain organoids, known as artificially grown miniature brains. These organoids, devoid of animal cells, have the potential to revolutionize the study and treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. Through their research, they aim to enhance our understanding and ultimately find more effective solutions for these conditions.

In the past decade, researchers have delved into the realm of neurologic diseases, venturing beyond traditional mouse models to embrace the potential of human brain organoids as an alternative. This innovative approach has sparked new avenues of exploration, offering promising insights into the intricacies of the human brain.

The intricate brain structure is better replicated by self-assembled, 3D tissues derived from embryonic or pluripotent stem cells, as opposed to conventional two-dimensional cultures. This advancement offers a more accurate representation, enhancing the quality and fidelity of research in neuroscience.

Previously, brain organoids relied on an engineered network of proteins and molecules, known as extracellular matrices, for structural support. However, the substance used, Matrigel, was derived from mouse sarcomas. To overcome this limitation, scientists developed a new extracellular matrix without animal components, allowing them to pursue their research with greater confidence and consistency.

Not only does this new method provide more accurate results than traditional mouse models, but it also eliminates the need for animal cells. This opens up exciting opportunities for further exploration in neuroscience, unlocking the potential of personalized treatments tailored to individual neurological profiles.

Researchers developed an innovative technique for culturing human brain organoids, utilizing a custom-engineered extracellular matrix devoid of animal components. This groundbreaking approach resulted in a remarkable boost in the neurogenesis of brain organoids, surpassing the outcomes of previous studies.

"This progress in the advancement of animal-free human brain organoids will pave the way for significant breakthroughs in the field of neurodevelopmental biology," stated Joerg Lahann, Ph.D., the senior author of the study. Lahann is the director of the U-M Biointerfaces Institute and holds the distinguished position of Wolfgang Pauli Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering at U-M.

"The potential applications of this technology are truly revolutionary, offering an unprecedented opportunity to study and treat neurological disorders in a personalized manner."

The brain organoids of the research team were built upon a foundational extracellular matrix consisting of human fibronectin. This protein acts as a natural structure for stem cells, facilitating their adhesion, differentiation, and maturation. The organoids were further supported by a highly porous polymer scaffold, enhancing their overall structure and function.

The organoids were cultivated for several months, during which time the laboratory personnel were unable to access the facility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the utilization of proteomics, researchers have discovered that brain organoids develop cerebral spinal fluid, a transparent liquid that circulates the brain and spinal cord. This fluid exhibits a closer resemblance to the cerebrospinal fluid found in adult humans when compared to a significant study conducted on brain organoids developed in Matrigel.

The discovery of cerebrospinal fluid offers exciting insights into the inner workings of the human brain. This breakthrough provides a more realistic representation of human neurological pathways, allowing researchers to delve deeper into the mysteries of the brain and uncover novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

These innovative developments open up new possibilities in neuroscience, offering unprecedented access to lab-grown brains. Animal-free brain organoids have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of neurological diseases and are paving the way for improved treatments and a new era of personalized medicine.

"When our brains undergo natural development in the womb, they do not grow on a substrate of the extracellular matrix generated by mouse cancer cells," explained Ayşe Muñiz, Ph.D., the primary author of the study. Ayşe was a graduate student in the U-M Macromolecular Science and Engineering Program when this research was conducted. "Our new method is a major step forward in the development of personalized medicine, providing more accurate models and enhanced predictions for neurological diseases."

The potential implications of this research are immense. By utilizing animal-free lab-grown human brain organoids, researchers can gain unprecedented access to an invaluable resource for the advancement of neuroscience.

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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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