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Large scale production and high throughput 3D analysis of lab-grown 'minibrains'

21 June 2021

Small Minded

You might boast of a big brain, but small ones have their uses. ‘Minibrains’ are tiny structures formed of human brain cells, which are used by scientists to study brain function, disease development, and new treatments. They can be used in countless investigations, and can even be grown from individuals’ cells, creating personalised testing grounds for treatments. Despite their comparatively diminutive stature, the minibrains’ internal structure was still hard to discern through the conventional approaches of analysing destructively-obtained slices of material, but a new study has visualised their anatomy in new detail, from the outside. Researchers labelled individual neurons and rendered other areas transparent, so they could see the remarkable complexity within (pictured, with elaborate brain cell projections in green and shorter ones in pink). Observing this 3D morphology will help future studies rapidly assess effects of drugs in many minibrains, hopefully leading to new, tailored treatments for patients.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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