Lab-created mini-brains reveal how growing organ maintains neuronal balance

July 27, 2017, Yale University
Creation of organoids from stem cells allows scientists to study discrete areas of brain as it develops. Credit: Yale University

Scientists can now explore in a laboratory dish how the human brain develops by creating organoids—distinct, three-dimensional regions of the brain. In research published in Cell Stem Cell, Yale scientists coaxed early stage stem cells to create and fuse two types of organoids from different brain regions to show how the developing brain maintains proper balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurons.

A failure to maintain this balance has been implicated in a host of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

"The inhibitory neurons migrate from specific areas of the embryonic brain to the region where excitatory neurons are being produced," said senior author In-Hyun Park, associate professor of genetics and associate professor in the Child Study Center. "What we did is to fuse these two areas and watched the process unfold."

The Yale team used human to grow an organoid called the human medial ganglionic eminence, which produces and plays a crucial but brief role in early development of the cortex. By merging this structure with another that produces excitatory neurons they could track migration of the inhibitory cells, which provide a crucial check on excitatory neurons.

Understanding the process will not only help researchers understand how the human brain evolved, but shed light on how imbalances contribute to many .

For instance, excess activity by excitatory neurons has been implicated in schizophrenia while too much inhibitory neuronal activity may contribute to depression, Park said. The imbalance has also been linked to development of autism spectrum disorders he said.

Explore further: Molecule may help maintain brain's synaptic balance

Related Stories

Molecule may help maintain brain's synaptic balance

June 13, 2017

Many neurological diseases are malfunctions of synapses, or the points of contact between neurons that allow senses and other information to pass from finger to brain. In the brain, there is a careful balance between the ...

Scientists discover new mechanism of how brain networks form

December 26, 2016

Scientists have discovered that networks of inhibitory brain cells or neurons develop through a mechanism opposite to the one followed by excitatory networks. Excitatory neurons sculpt and refine maps of the external world ...

Your brain's got rhythm

February 14, 2017

Not everyone is Fred Astaire or Michael Jackson, but even those of us who seem to have two left feet have got rhythm—in our brains. From breathing to walking to chewing, our days are filled with repetitive actions that ...

Recommended for you

Asteroids, hydrogen make great recipe for life on Mars

March 26, 2019

A new study reveals asteroid impacts on ancient Mars could have produced key ingredients for life if the Martian atmosphere was rich in hydrogen. An early hydrogen-rich atmosphere on Mars could also explain how the planet ...

Cool Earth theory sheds more light on diamonds

March 26, 2019

A QUT geologist has published a new theory on the thermal evolution of Earth billions of years ago that explains why diamonds have formed as precious gemstones rather than just lumps of common graphite.

New cellulose-based material represents three sensors in one

March 26, 2019

Cellulose soaked in a carefully designed polymer mixture acts as a sensor to measure pressure, temperature and humidity at the same time. The measurements are completely independent of each other. The ability to measure pressure, ...

Physicists discover new class of pentaquarks

March 26, 2019

Tomasz Skwarnicki, professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, has uncovered new information about a class of particles called pentaquarks. His findings could lead to a new understanding ...

Study finds people who feed birds impact conservation

March 26, 2019

People in many parts of the world feed birds in their backyards, often due to a desire to help wildlife or to connect with nature. In the United States alone, over 57 million households in the feed backyard birds, spending ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.