Brown University researchers grow mini-brains for testing

Why bother acquiring a full sized (read: expensive) brain when a miniature (read: cheaper) one will do? Brown University researchers have detailed in a new report their efforts to create a non-thinking miniature brain composed of central nervous system tissue. The mini-brain creation process is said to be both simple — relatively speaking — and inexpensive, and they have a big upside: these mini-brains could reduce the number of animal brains that are used for testing.

Brown University detailed the project in a statement late last week. The mini brains, as they're called, have electrical signals and neural connections known as synapses, allowing them to be used for testing purposes for various research projects — stem cells, testing drugs, new neural tissue transplants, etc.

The mini-brain doesn't actually look like a brain — you can see an animated version in the Vine video above. This is because they're exceptionally tiny, as they're composed of some cells taken from the living tissue of a rat. A single "small sample" can produce thousands of miniature brains, says Brown University.

The resulting mini-brain measures in at only a third of a single millimeter in diameter. Once a culture is taken, it only takes a day for the tissue to start forming, and by the two/three weeks mark, they have a complex three-dimensional neural network. The researchers estimate it will cost twenty-five cents — a single quarter — to produce each brain.

SOURCE: Brown University