Scientists raise mini human brain in a petri dish

A cross-section of the brain-like tissue created from human stem cells.

(Credit: Madeline A. Lancaster)

Petri dishes have hosted all sorts of experiments, like cultivating mold or creating amoeba breeding grounds. But now, truly futuristic events are happening in these circular glass plates — most notably, growing a brain.

That’s right, scientists are now raising brains in petri dishes.

According to a study in the science journal Nature, biologists at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna have grown a human brain using stem cells. This brain isn’t full-grown; instead, it is small 3D sections of tissue that apparently resemble the brain of a 9-week-old fetus. It is about 3 to 4 millimeters in size.

Despite not being fully developed, this brain model still has distinct regions of the brain, like the dorsal cortex, ventral forebrain, and an immature retina.

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