Teen develops low-cost bioreactor for growing mini-brains

A teenager has developed a new type of miniature bioreactor called SpinΩ that can be used to grow miniature brains — the bioreactor costs about $400 to make, which is substantially cheaper than the $2,000 or so conventional systems cost. The teenager is Christopher Hadiono, and he was 16-years-old when he first approached Hongjun Song about spending the summer of 2013 in Song's John Hopkins University lab. By the end of that summer, Hadiono had created his machine.

In addition to being cheaper than the commercially available versions, Hadiono's device is able to hold more than double the number of brain organoids (mini-brains), making it an attractive option for labs in need of effective, budget-friendly hardware. The units can be hooked up to run in parallel, and are able to subject the mini-brains to about double the number of conditions as commercial alternatives, expanding the experimentation options.

The mini-brains created with these mini-bioreactors have already been put to good use, being used to study how the zika virus affects fetal brains and how it may cause microcephaly, among other things.

While some researchers are calling for the machine itself to be more rigorously evaluated before it goes into use, the potential for such a device is very high — it could speed up the rate of drug evaluations, for example, while keeping costs down. As well, the bioreactor requires less materials to develop the brains. A patent is pending for the device, and blueprints were recently published in a scientific journal.

SOURCE: Spectrum