By: April Carson
We should all be asking ourselves this on a regular basis, “has science gone too far?” We're living in an age where scientists can perform everything from transforming squid into glass to levitating melting metal. Now, however, scientists at the University Hospital Düsseldorf in Germany have done something truly Frankenstein-ish: they've created tiny brains with semi-functional eyes.
The German researchers and their colleagues from other organizations described a scientific breakthrough in a study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, according to The New Atlas. The researchers expanded on previous work with tiny clusters of cells known as "brain organoids." To assist with the study of how the two organs interact, they added rudimentary eyes to the mixtures.
A brain organoid, or "cerebral organoid," is a highly detailed replica of a human brain. Even though scientists generate cerebral organoids in vitro from stem cells, they can be compared to the brain of a ten-week-old embryo. (Scientists react human skin cells back to their original condition.)
However, because cerebral organoids lack a system of blood vessels, they do not contain a proper brain or even a full set of neurons. This is why the scientists added retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which give eyes their sight abilities.
Initially, many scientists believed that RGCs were only found in actual eyeballs. In fact, RGCs were also present in the brain of a mouse fetus. This is why the scientists added human proteins to their cerebral organoids, which made them differentiate into specific neurons.
“In the mammalian brain, nerve fibers from retinal ganglion cells extend out to connect with their brain targets, a feature that has never before been observed in an in vitro system,” senior study author Jay Gopalakrishnan added. “These organoids can be used to study brain-eye interactions in early embryonic development, model congenital retinal disorders, and create patient-specific retinal cell types for personalized drug testing and transplantation treatments,” Gopalakrishnan continued.
What were the organoids seeing, exactly? Gopalakrishnan and his colleagues claim that the organoids' eyes were really seeing light. The spherical sensors were even equipped with rudimentary lenses and corneal tissue. Although we still have no idea if the brains "perceived" these light pictures. And while we're betting against it, that may change as scientists push the limits of what's conceivable.
The lab-grown eyes were also able to sense depth, another hallmark of 3D vision.
While these engineered organs are far from being ready for prime time, the research adds yet another dimension to the field of retinal organoids. Gopalakrishnan says it's possible that his results could be replicated in other types of tissues, such as the liver, which could be useful in drug testing.
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About the Blogger:
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 bossbabymav.com
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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