Announced at the Military Health System Research Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a team of scientists from Ohio State University claim to have grown an almost fully-formed human brain.
Resembling the brain of a five-week-old foetus, the tissue has the potential to be used in the study of a host of developmental degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s. At present, the team behind the feet intend to use the foetal brain in military studies of post traumatic stress disorder.
Speaking at the conference, Rene Anand who presented the findings stressed that there were no ethical concerns involved, saying “We don’t have any sensory stimuli entering the brain. This brain is not thinking in any way.”
About the size of an eraser, the team managed to create the brain from mature human skin cells. Using a technique not yet explained owing to patent concerns, the skin cells were converted into pluripotent cells (stem cells with the capacity to become any human tissue). An engineered environment was then used to encourage the growth of neurological tissue.
As a result of this, according to the team, 99% of brain tissue was able to be produced. This included a spinal cord.
The process took 12 weeks to achieve a five-week-old brain. Development ceased at this point owing to the team’s inability to create an artificial circulatory system. Said Anand, “we’d need an artificial heart to help the brain grow further in development.”
In response to the claims of Anand and her team, several scientists have voiced concerns. The quality of the work is questionable owing to the secrecy surrounding the processes and techniques employed. Further criticism has been levelled at the release of the information to media outlets prior to submitting the findings for peer review.