Mini brains: organoids promise research success – Science


The researchers managed to grow complex tissue clusters from nerve cells. But the human brain is much more complex than these races.

Five years ago, the Molecular Institute biotechnology (IMBA) in Vienna Made international titles. The development of so-called cerebral organoids from human Stem cells one of the ten most important scientific discoveries of 2013 by the prestigious journal Science was voted.


In the press, the organoid called "mini brains". Five years later, IMBA is still involved in cutting-edge research Stem cells operated. The three millimeter pieces of brain tissue grown in culture containers are still an important part of the institute's work.

From 2013, the organoid becoming much more complex The original tissue groups were still homogeneous in terms of cell structure, researchers can now glue cell cultures from different areas of the brain.

"We are always amazed at everything that works without any action"

"In the brain there are about two types of nerve cells, exciting and steaming. They occur in different parts of the brain, We have both areas in organoid molded and glued together. The first organoid one fuses the other and the structures are formed. The cells migrate to the right places by themselves. We are constantly surprised at what works without any help, "explains the director of IMBA Jürgen Knoblich in conversation with futurezone.

Organoids can help you better understand diseases

to Organoidmodellen with activation only nerve cells c & # 39; is a chaotic activation of cells. The same thing happens in the human brain in an epileptic attack.

organoid with activation and inhibition nerve cells do not show this evidence. Here lies the great potential of the brain organoid: IMBA are used to better understand model illnesses. In the case of epilepsy, for example, the migration of the various types of cells to the intended position is imminent brain suspected of being a possible cause of the disease. Researchers at Organoidmodell study.

Pathways to new therapies

Besides the epilepsy there are in Vienna also researches the cellular basis of other diseases, such as autism or microcephaly. In some cases, the Organoidmodelle also suggest ways for possible therapies. "I always depend on genetically determined diseases. I can't model environmental influences on the organoid.

Although autism is a behavioral disease, there are inherited diseases that activate it. I can do it Stem cells take that model and see what's different about the organoid of the brain. Which ion channels are involved, for example. There are appropriate drugs that attack there, "he explains Knoblich,

Organoids can help with drug development

In the future, the organoid also be targeted for drug development. "In the near future, hopefully it should be possible organoid high performance for drug tests. You have to imagine you have 100,000 organoid then add 100,000 drugs to see how a healthy volunteer's cells and epileptic patients respond to them. We are interested in the chemicals that make an organoid for epilepsy & # 39; a "healthy cerebral organoid," says the biochemist.

How the human brain works too complex

In addition to possible therapeutic applications, the organoid it also helps our understanding of the human brain to expand. There are limitations here.

Because despite being cerebral organoid they have become more complex, they are with a complete human being brain not compare. "The operation of nerve cells or their interaction can be studied in the organoid. But understanding how a thought works is not possible. The functioning of a human being brain "You will only fully understand theoretical and mathematical modeling," he says Knoblich.

Far from a real brain

Although an organoid has reached 50 million nerve cells can exist and the cells can exchange signals between them, he is from one brain far. In addition to the structure, the organoid also lacks an immune system and blood vessels.

It is supplied from the outside through the nutrient solution with oxygen and other essential elements. "The brain a fruit fly is much more orderly and complex. The organoid is randomly interconnected and more similar to the tissue removed during brain tumor surgery, "he says. Knoblich,

They are considered ethical problems

Therefore, the director of IMBA does not worry that anyone could abuse the Organoid technology in real brain In the glass: "It is absolutely unthinkable to use this method organoid where even at a distance something that is human evolves brain similar. "

But this does not mean that ethical issues are not weighed. "For me, the mere fact that there are people around me worried about ethical issues is enough," he says Knoblich,

Brain organoid: this is how it is done

The development of a cerebral organoid starts with a blood donation, which occurs in the case of IMBA from a biobank or in the context of a cooperation with AKH of patients with certain diseases.

From this, the so-called peripheral blood stem cells are isolated, in which one with the help of a virus infects four genes that transform into the so-called induced pluripotent Stem cells Trigger (IPS). This reprogramming lasts about a month. For this type of cell, there is no equivalent in embryos, they are an artifact.

The IPS are then stored in a culture vessel where, under the influence of the appropriate growth factors, they start to differentiate in the type of tissue desired. In the case of the cerebral organoid the nutrient solution is regulated in such a way nerve cells module.

Cell clusters are then applied to a protein gel scaffold. To form three-dimensional structures, the gel droplets are always held in suspension by a mechanical movement. The result is an organoid that can survive up to a year.

To the person: Jürgen Knoblich

The scientific director of the Molecular Institute biotechnology in Vienna is a studied biochemist. He graduated from Bayer in Germany is England, This was followed by a research stay in San Francisco, Since 2005 it is at Molecular Institute biotechnology in Vienna Opera. In addition, he also teaches al University of Vienna,

His research objective is neural Stem cells, His research team contributed significantly to the understanding of asymmetric cell division Stem cells contributed.

This article first appeared on

To the comments

The latest videos on

The latest futurezone videos.

The latest videos on

Show description

. (tagsToTranslate) ADN (t) IMBA (t) Vienna (t) Research (t) Molecular biotechnologies (t) Organoids (t) Brain (t) Science


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.