Brown scientists create new kind of mini-brains

Brown scientists create new kind of mini-brains

Using the 3D Petri Dish scientists at Brown University have come up with a cheap and simple way to create brains about the size of a pencil dot. The creations are called mini-brains and they are being used as test beds for research.

“The mini brain is a three dimensional ball of cells and we basically take all the cells that are in the brain of a rat and take all the cells apart and re-form them into little balls of cells,” said Molly Boutin, the lead co-author of a newly released study on mini-brains.

The brains don’t have cognitive skills like ours, but they do produce electrical signals.

“It has the basic function of a real brain that allows us to do testing of how drugs or disease acts on the real brain,” said lead co-author Yu-Ting Dingle.

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An accessible approach to making a mini-brain

An accessible approach to making a mini-brain

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — If you need a working miniature brain — say for drug testing, to test neural tissue transplants, or to experiment with how stem cells work — a new paper describes how to build one with what the Brown University authors say is relative ease and low expense. The little balls of brain aren’t performing any cogitation, but they produce electrical signals and form their own neural connections — synapses — making them readily producible testbeds for neuroscience research, the authors said.

“We think of this as a way to have a better in vitro [lab] model that can maybe reduce animal use,” said graduate student Molly Boutin, co-lead author of the new paper in the journal Tissue Engineering: Part C. “A lot of the work that’s done right now is in two-dimensional culture, but this is an alternative that is much more relevant to the in vivo [living] scenario.”

Just a small sample of living tissue from a single rodent can make thousands of mini-brains, the researchers said. The recipe involves isolating and concentrating the desired cells with some centrifuge steps and using that refined sample to seed the cell culture in medium in an agarose spherical mold.

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Video of A little ball of brain. Three-dimensional tissues allow for more realistic experiments than two-dimensional ones.

Tissue Engineering and Advanced Robotic Systems Come Together

Feng Shui Basics for 3D Cell Culture Tissue Engineering and Advanced Robotic Systems Come Together To Improve Success Rates in Phenotypic Drug Discovery

by Lisa Heiden

Simply put, “cells in 3D more closely mimic the phenotype of real tissues and organs than those in 2D,” informs Jeffrey Morgan, Ph.D., a professor of medical science and engineering at Brown University and founder of Microtissues.

Built upon knowledge gleaned over several decades, “what we are seeing now—the big picture—is the emergence of a variety of novel 3D cell culture technologies,” he declares.

Anticipation is also in the air at Emulate. “We are undergoing a major evolution from 3D cell culture to organs-on-chips,” exclaims the company’s president and CSO, Geraldine Hamilton, Ph.D. The Emulate evolution is incorporating a host of microfluidic approaches and microfabrication technologies.

Yet another change-is-coming statement comes from Mamunur Rahman, Ph.D., principle investigator and laboratory director, Scivax Life Sciences, a subsidiary of JSR based in Japan. “Just two years ago, we compared 3D versus 2D,” recalls Dr. Rahman. “Now we compare 3D versus 3D. People understand that 3D is more important than 2D.”

Drs. Morgan, Hamilton, and Rahman were among the presenters at CHI’s 3D Cellular Models conference recently held in Boston. The conference showcased microengineered biomimetic systems, outstanding examples of which are discussed in this article. Multiple presenters emphasized that these systems could be used in pharmaceutical applications.

“The pharmaceutical industry is very interested,” Dr. Morgan elaborates. “It wants better models to replace animals in research and to provide more predictive information on toxicity as well as efficacy. So, it is shifting away from screens of 2D cells and starting to do 3D screens for phenotypic drug discovery.”

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