Working miniature brains with functioning nervous tissue could easily and inexpensively be used in biomedical research, which could lessen the reliance on animals and make an enormous step in the right direction to replace vivisection entirely.
According to the team behind the mini brains—which are functional in that they are an electrically active sphere of central nervous system tissue—they could be ideal for testing things like drugs research, neural tissue transplants, or experiments with stem cells. There is a high demand for in vitro models of the central nervous system to study neurological disorders, injuries, toxicity, and drug efficacy. Currently, upward of 100 million animals are made to suffer at the hands of such experiments every year.
Researchers from Brown University stated in their August 2015 published paper that three-dimensional (3D) in vitro models can bridge the gap between traditional two-dimensional culture and animal models because they present an in vivo-like microenvironment in a tailorable experimental platform. The little balls of brain aren’t performing any cogitation, but they produce electrical signals and form their own neural—synapses—making them readily producible testbeds for neuroscience research, the authors said.
Mini Brain Technique Could Reduce Vivisection
While using and hurting sentient animals for human gain and benefit is morally abhorrent, there has to be a driving focus on tools and techniques which can directly replace the vivisection industry. More often than not the anatomical, physiological, immunological, histological (dealing with the cell structures) and even psychological differences between humans and animals are too great to overcome, which is why human relevant techniques need to be implemented.
Mini-brains do not have the capacity to think like a full-sized human brain. However, according to researchers, they can be made from existing living tissue and even a small sample of living tissue taken from a rodent is enough to make thousands of mini-brains through a process of isolating and concentrating the cells in a centrifuge and seeding a cell culture. This has the ability to dramatically reduce the number of animals who suffer in vivisection and is an important step forward.
The brain tissue sphere starts to form just one day after the cultures are seeded, with the neural network of the full mini brain taking two or three weeks to develop. The resulting brains, which only measure one-third of a millimetre in diameter, would cost approximately 25 US cents to make, meaning they could offer a cheap and practical 3D test-bed for laboratory purposes.
Living mini brains, paired with the recent advances in the 3D printing of biocompatible materials, cells and supporting components which form complex 3D functional living tissues, mean the dismantling of the barbaric vivisection industry could be on the road to happening.