The little balls of brain will not perform any cogitation but can produce electrical signals and form their own neural connections - synapses - making them readily producible testbeds for neuroscience research, said the researchers from Rhode Island-based Brown University.

"We think of this as a way to have a better in vitro (lab) model that can maybe reduce animal use," said graduate student Molly Boutin.

Just a small sample of living tissue from a single rodent can make thousands of mini-brains.

The recipe involves isolating and concentrating the desired cells with some centrifuge steps and using that refined sample to seed the cell culture in medium in a spherical mold.

The mini-brains, about a third of a millimetre in diametre, are not the first or the most sophisticated working cell cultures of a central nervous system but they require fewer steps to make and they use more readily available materials.

"The materials are easy to get and the mini-brains are simple to make," added co-lead author Yu-Ting Dingle.

The spheres of brain tissue begin to form within a day after the cultures are seeded and have formed complex 3-D neural networks within two to three weeks, the paper shows.

The paper appeared in the journal Tissue Engineering: Part C.


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