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Mini Brains Invented In Drug Research And May Lessen Animal Testing In Labs

Update Date: Feb 15, 2016 10:21 AM EST
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The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-based researchers are culturing mini human brains from five donors' skin cells in an ongoing lab trend which could lead to a better understanding of neurological diseases, improved medical treatments, and eventual reduction of animal testing for new drugs.

The scientists said the lab-grown miniature replicas of the brain have "primitive" thinking attributes similar to a "two-month-old brain" of a human fetus with signs manifesting "spontaneous electrophysiological activity".

"It's starting to produce a primitive type of 'thinking. Obviously there's no input or output. It is meaningless electrical activity but the neurons are trying to communicate with each other," said John Hopkins University professor Thomas Hartung as quoted by The Guardian.

Furthermore, Hartung said that the brain model they developed can offer promising results when it comes to drug testing adding that newly developed medications often fail 95% of the time when applied on humans.

"A lot of drug development has failed because the animal models don't represent humans. There is a very big desire to get models that are more human, "remarked Hartung as mentioned in a report by the Baltimore Sun.

The researchers also added that with their efforts, they would be able to provide a model in their quest for finding an effective treatment behind debilitating diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or even multiple sclerosis.

"We have been doing work on Parkinson's as an example, which we're publishing, because we can really replicate some of the hallmarks of Parkinson's in human brain model," added Hartung as stated in a Telegraph report.

Using miniature brain models is increasingly growing since the 2013 breakthrough by scientists at the Austrian Academy of Science Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna who developed a mini-replica with developmental function similar to a 9-week-old embryo.

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