Scientists at Ohio State University have succeeded in creating a human brain almost entirely from human skin cells.Project Manager, Rene Anand, presented his study on 18 August at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
This tiny brain – the size of that of a 5 week-old fœtus is “the most developed human brain ever created”, explained Rene Anand recalling that “although brains equivalent to the size of a nine week-old foetal brain have been created, they were never fully intact”. This time, “99% of the various genes and cells in a normal brain”were reproduced.
Scientists used skin cells which they transformed into pluripotent cells, i.e. cells programmed to become any cell tissue in the body. They then “used these cells in an environment forcing the said cells to develop and transform into the brain”. “We would have needed an artificial heart to help the brain develop more fully”, explained Rene Anand.
This technique could revolutionise personalised medicine. “If you have a hereditary disease, for example, you could give us a sample of your skin cells and we could make a tailor-made brain”,explained Rene Anand. It would also be possible to “test the effect ofvarious toxins on a fully developing brain”as well as investigational medicinal products intended to treat neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. “Ethical questions do not apply in this case since no sensorial stimulus is anticipated. This brain is obviously incapable of thought processes”,added Rene Anand.
However, the numerous study data have not been published by Rene Anand and his team who claim that their technique is “patented”. This lack of transparency has generated mistrust amongst several scientists who have responded cautiously to this scientific first.