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Scientists Develop Brain Organoids with Complex Neural Activity



UCLA CTSI News Archive

UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center/Nature Neuroscience

A microscope image of a mini brain organoid showing layered neural tissue and different types of neural cells.

UCLA study suggests researchers could analyze neurological disorders in a stem cell–derived model

Researchers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA have developed brain organoids—3D brain-like structures grown from human stem cells—that show organized waves of activity similar to those found in living human brains.

Then, while studying organoids grown from stem cells derived from patients with the neurological disorder Rett syndrome, the scientists were able to observe patterns of electrical activity resembling seizures, a hallmark of the condition.

The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, broadens the list of brain conditions that can be studied in organoids and further illustrates the value of these human cell–based models in investigating the underlying causes of diseases and testing potential therapies. 

“This work demonstrates that we can make organoids that resemble real human brain tissue and can be used to accurately replicate certain features of human brain function and disease,” said Bennett Novitch, a member of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center and senior author of the study.

Read the full UCLA press release.

UCLA CTSI provided pilot funding during the initial phase of developing the organoids to study the zika virus pathogenesis, which aided in setting the stage for the authors' more recent work.  CTSI biostatisticians and CTSI-supported research cores were also utilized.