Scientists in Singapore have made a big leap on research on the ‘mini-brain’. These advanced mini versions of the human midbrain will help researchers develop treatments and conduct other studies into Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and ageing-related brain diseases.
These mini midbrain versions are three-dimensional miniature tissues that are grown in the laboratory and they have certain properties of specific parts of the human brains.
Ref: Midbrain-like Organoids from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells Contain Functional Dopaminergic and Neuromelanin-Producing Neurons. Cell Stem Cell (8 July 2016) | DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2016.07.005
Recent advances in 3D culture systems have led to the generation of brain organoids that resemble different human brain regions; however, a 3D organoid model of the midbrain containing functional midbrain dopaminergic (mDA) neurons has not been reported. We developed a method to differentiate human pluripotent stem cells into a large multicellular organoid-like structure that contains distinct layers of neuronal cells expressing characteristic markers of human midbrain. Importantly, we detected electrically active and functionally mature mDA neurons and dopamine production in our 3D midbrain-like organoids (MLOs). In contrast to human mDA neurons generated using 2D methods or MLOs generated from mouse embryonic stem cells, our human MLOs produced neuromelanin-like granules that were structurally similar to those isolated from human substantia nigra tissues. Thus our MLOs bearing features of the human midbrain may provide a tractable in vitro system to study the human midbrain and its related diseases.